(Matt. 6:13) “And lead us not into temptation (to test, putting to proof; in other words; a trial of your faith, to discipline, to experience adversity), but deliver us from evil (sin and its influence in a life):” Well! How in the world are we going to reconcile two such diametrically opposed statements? If Jesus is always right; AND HE IS; what is He talking about? FIRST; this whole prayer is for us, not Him. You really need to think about that for a minute.
The most vivid example I can use is in the case of a dead child. You see lovely, lovely, people torn and haggard with grief, lift tear stained faces to the sky and cry out; "Why did You let this happen? If You are such a good God why did You let this happen to my child; to me?" Sometimes a grief stricken face will turn toward the sky and even shake a tight closed fist in towering torment and scream with suffering rage; "Why did You kill my child? I hate You."
Some might say; what gives you, cruel writer with your nosey pen, the right to intrude upon my innermost, gut wrenching grief and sorrow? My heart goes out to you in unspeakable tenderness and, in sad humility, I suffer great sorrow for your terrible loss and your awful grief. All I can say is; "I have been there, I've lived it, seen it and suffered it". Out of our brotherhood, out of our sad kinship of suffering, I feel like I have the right to extend a helping hand to you and please, please don't be offended by the simplicity of my words.
Dying inside; shriveled soul shrieking; even as I started bending toward my precious, precious, precious son there in his casket; I knew. When I bent down and kissed his cold, waxy face my final goodbye kiss; I knew. When I touched his cold, rock hard arm with my final squeeze goodbye, when I whispered; "I'll see you again Buddy." and when my streaming tears wetted his final clothing, I knew.
I knew in the deepest depths of my tortured soul that life had killed my son. That's it; that's all I have to offer you. Life is just life. Think about it a minute; life is just life and life is loss. There is sorrow in loss, sooner or later there is always sorrow with loss.
What happened to all your yesterdays? What happened to your dimple cheeked, cherub child, boy or girl, with the big grin? Probably in there squeezing that stubborn pimple, he's shaving and whacking his skin, she's putting on lipstick in a silent, full concentration struggle and----. Now they're going down the road in a car and you have worms of worry crawling through you. The baby, the teen, going away to school, getting married-----? You know what I mean don't you?
What about your Mom's tender smile and that special laugh your Dad had; a brother, a sister, Granny? Friends? All your yesterdays are gone and these photos have no life! Your friend? Your job? Your house? Tight skin? Waistline? Hair? The list of loss is endless! There at the end, at your end, you lose whatever is left be it large or small. Have you ever seen a hearse hauling a corpse to the cemetery and pulling a U-Haul trailer behind it? See what I mean? All a person can take with them are: 1) are you saved or lost and 2) the works you have done whether they be good or evil!
It all started in the Genesis (beginning) of us (Genesis 3:16-24) with (V.23-24) the curse of separation, (V.19) the curse of death (V.16-17) and the curse of sorrow, . Yes! Yes, you are absolutely right! You didn't have a thing to do with the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden. I didn't either; none of us did. Adam and Eve did; it was their fault; not mine, not yours. BUT STILL: Life is all we've got and life is loss and we're stuck with it to do the best we can with it. In reality we have the same thing Adam and Eve had, a choice!
In God's inspiration in writing this I see the purpose of God's inspiration and enabling for me to write "Is God Fair" because God offers REDEMPTION (ransom in full, salvation, deliverance, riddance). (1John 1:8-10) Christians sin! And that's just the way it is! (Heb. 4:14-16) But we have a place and a Person to go to obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Look at the meaning of redemption. The ransom in full (SALVATION) from the curse of separation, the ransom in full (DELIVERANCE) from the curse of death and the ransom in full (RIDDANCE) from the curse of sorrow were all three paid for on the bloody cross of Calvary by Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
Salvation is made possible through the cleansing power of Jesus' blood when it is applied to sin. That blood is in plenteous supply and I'm glad because every one of us good, perfect, wonderfully flawed, Christians need a good cleansing now and then too. We need deliverance from our sin and riddance of what makes us sin.
That's why Jesus said; "And lead us not into temptation,". It means; don't blame God; God will be there to lead you out of temptation, it signifies understanding of God's hedging process, He will rid us of our faults that got us in trouble in the first place and He will deliver us from what life does to us.
BUT: He will let life grind us and work us to make better, stronger, more dependent servants of us and then He'll use us as better witnesses concerning His glory and goodness; then He'll use us to help people and witness some more. Pretty neat huh? At least while there is no temptation it's pretty neat. I wouldn't dare call God an opportunist but you can if you want to because that will be between you and Him. LIFE IS YOUR TEST: PASS OR FAIL, IT IS FOREVER!
(James 1:13-14) “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust (longing or desire especially for that which is forbidden) and enticed (entice, delude, entrap):" AND THERE IS: (Matt. 4:1-3 & 1Thess. 3:5) Satan, the devil, is the tempter. SO: There are only two sources of temptation and evil; #1) MAN (SELF) #2) and Satan, the DEVIL.
Here's how temptation and evil, with the devil's "blessing", is in churches today.(1Pet. 4:12-19) (V.12) “Beloved think it not strange concerning the fiery trial (testing) which is to try (a putting to proof) you, as though some strange thing happened to you." (V.17) “----Judgment must begin at the house of God:----what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” (V.18) “And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear."
THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU JUST READ: Judgment begins in the house of God (the church) and there are three types of people mentioned in this scripture; the righteous Christian, the ungodly Christian and the sinful Christian!
All through the New Testament from (Rom. 1:1 to Rev. 3:22), in every book, read about all the different sins Christians are committing right in their churches during that era; that aspect of Christianity hasn’t changed either; If we were never going to sin anymore after salvation or if a Christian's spiritual malfunctions (a nice word for sins) were not going to be counted against him why waste time writing all that stuff in the Bible? Be honest and look at your church. Can you safely say everyone in your congregation is going to make it to heaven? Really!
Temptations come in too many forms to mention; from flipping off that rude driver to punching your neighbor in the nose; from telling lies to protect or acquire your job to getting rid of an unwanted pregnancy; from cheating on your taxes to disobeying God by choosing to obey the civil laws of your country.
Look what is legal according to civil law in America; abortion, natural selection instead of creationism, legal greed (example; federal budget earmarks that are scantily hidden vote buying), political affiliation instead of Bible affiliation (example: voting for "your party" even though they want to legalize drugs) and on, and on, and on as far as you can imagine. Below are two biblical examples of physical events that had eternal spiritual consequences.
(Matt. 6:13 again) "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:" The first source of temptation (test of faith) and evil. #1) MAN (SELF): When you read this please hear the devil whispering to David’s soul and working hand in hand with David’s own lust to eternally destroy David. (2Sam. 11:1 thru 12:23) We’ve all heard the story of David and Bath-she-ba many times.
But think about this: (11:1-2) King David had already lost two battles to temptation. 1st) David was in Jerusalem when it was past time for kings to go to battle. Why? 2nd): The business of operating a kingdom is run in the daytime and David had laid around in bed and gotten up in the eveningtide. Why?
PRIDE! Then David saw Bath-she-ba and just had to have her. Can you hear the devil whispering in David's thoughts? "Wow! She--is--a--fox!" (12:8 & 1Chron 14:3) David had a lot of wives; surely there was one who was at least almost as pretty and as sexy as Bath-she-ba. Satan; "You're the king you can do what you want!" “I’m the king, I can do what I want to do!”
And David lost a 3rd) battle to temptation when he accomplished a sexual relationship with Bath-she-ba. When she became pregnant; Satan; "Man, you're gonna look like a jerk now!" 4th) "I've got to protect my good name!"; David tried to trick her husband Uriah into thinking the child was his but Uriah was too honorable to spend the night with his wife while his fellow soldiers were in the uncertainty, discomfort, loneliness and fear combat carries with it like some awful cancer. (11:9-11) You have to admire Uriah; he didn’t put himself above his men and he refused to take advantage of what they couldn’t have. While losing that fourth battle to temptation David (12:9) killed Uriah with the Ammonite sword.
(11:14-17) I wonder what David thought when he gave Uriah his own death warrant to take back to Joab. David trusted brave, loyal, dependable, honest Uriah to never look inside the message pouch he was honored to carry from his king to his general .
Did David feel proud and pat himself on the back? Did he simply not care that he was killing a loyal soldier in God's army? Did David count the price of Uriah’s life as a fair trade for preserving David’s good name?
At that time in the story the murder wasn’t about Bath-she-ba; BECAUSE: If Uriah had innocently thought the child was his own Bath-she-ba would have had her baby and been back with her husband and nobody would have been any wiser. (Prov. 15:3) "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good." In his lust had David forgotten that God was looking? WHAT ABOUT YOU AND ME; IS GOD LOOKING?
(12:1-6 keyword: fourfold) Since David had tricked Uriah into delivering his own death sentence, God tricked David into setting forth his own sentence of punishment and God tacked on a few extra of His own. (12:7-16 esp. V.13) Nathan the prophet told David what his punishment would be. (V.13) David recognized his sin, took it like a man and turned to God for help but the sentence was set.
(12:17-23) When the baby died David took a bath, put on clean clothes, went to God’s house and worshipped God. Then David said with crystal clear understanding; “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” (Psa. 38:17) David wrote; "----and my sorrow is continually before me." I wonder how many times throughout his life David looked with heart wrenching sadness at that tiny grave and whispered; "I caused that".
As his children (remember-fourfold) were breaking his heart with their sins how many times did David take the blame for their actions because of his poor example and despise himself for the way he had lived? How many times did David look at his own face in his burnished, brazen mirror or a still pool someplace and hear Nathan’s words; (12:7) “Thou art the man” and feel self-loathing? (12:9) How many times did David see Uriah’s reflection looking over his shoulder in that same mirror? Did David compare himself to the grand gallantry of Uriah’s shining honesty, loyalty and courage and feel ashamed of himself?
(12:8) You know in your heart David must have wondered what blessings and gifts "such and such things" God was going to give him that he would now never receive. David went on to be a great king, (Refer. Ex. 23:20-33 esp.31-32) he almost conquered the promised land, he wrote the Book of Psalms; Psalm 51 was about this event; you know he always had those memories.
Have you considered that those memories helped him be a better servant for God? Are you understanding how sin can leave “a mark of Cain” on your own forehead that only you can see? Have you ever felt ashamed and had to live with the memory of your forgiven sins? Did your temptation and evil make a better Christian of you?
(Matt. 6:13 once more) "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:" The second source of temptation (test of faith) and evil: #2) THE DEVIL: (1Cor. 10:13) There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1Pet. 1:7) “That the trial of your faith----“ (Job 1;1 thru 4:7) The story of Job and his trial of faith is also very well known.
Think about this: (1:1-5) Job was very rich, socially well-known and obviously politically powerful (“greatest of all the men of the east”). (1:8) Job was honest, did no evil and feared God. BUT: Job appears to have grown complacent in that there was no thanksgiving to God for Job’s wealth, station in life, God’s protection (hedged about) and wonderful family. It appears Job’s prayers were narrowed down to focus on his family.
(1:8) God provoked Satan by bragging on Job. (1:9-12) Satan devoured Job’s possessions and family like (1Pet. 5:8) a roaring lion. (1:15 &17) Job must have been tempted to gather the clans and extract revenge on the Sabeans and Chaldeans that had robbed him. (1:16 & 19) Job must have wondered why the fire and the wind had so ravaged him.
Job’s world had crashed around him, his children were dead and as his cold, grey darlings were pulled from the wreckage, their broken bodies prepared and put gently into the ground Job must have been tempted to question God. What would you have felt and done?
(1:20-22) Job was engulfed in a savage, unrelenting grief but he still worshipped God, understood God was in control and did not blame God. (1:12) Do you think Job recognized the fact God still had him hedged about with divine protection? All these must have and appears are not Biblical and are only conjecture. Job's SORROW must have been beyond imagining!
(2:3) Again God provoked Satan by bragging on Job. (2:7) Satan, (1Pet. 5:8) Job’s adversary, went after Job’s health with an awful, supernatural fury. (2:9-10) Job must have been tempted to wring his wife’s neck and stop her shrewish mouth. But he didn’t. (2:10) Job didn’t sin with his lips but (3:1) Job’s heart was on fire with frustration, grief, resentment and surely anger because (3:1-11) Job did vent his frustration, grief, resentment and anger by cursing the day he was born.
SO: Was Job tempted to commit suicide? (2:5) Job's life was hedged in but do you think Job felt hedged in with God’s protection now with his flesh rotting from his bones? The Bible doesn’t say.
(4:1-8) Oh happy day! Oh happy day! Here comes Job's religious friends (4:7) to tell Job the whole episode is retribution for Job’s sins. "Well, well, looks like he really brought it down on himself this time boys!" They sound a lot like today's Christians don't they? (Job 12:1-3) Job must have been tempted to slap his friend's jaws off for the way they talked to him. The Bible does not say if Job was tempted in any way but, good grief, look at what the man suffered.
(James 5:11) Job is complimented in the New Testament for his patience but Job did feel sorry for himself and when God finally spoke (Job 38:1-3 & 40:7) He told Job to stand up like a man, stop the self-pity and (Ch. 38-41) that in the grand scheme of things Job (38:2) didn’t know much, (38:4) hadn’t done much, (40:8-9) and wasn’t worth much. (40:4 & 42: 2) It sounds like Job is admitting that he had had some bad thoughts because (42:6) Job admits that he abhors (despise, loathe) himself.
But Job had so learned and grown in humility that he could pray for his three friends who had falsely accused him so many times. (40:10-17 esp. V.10) Then God rewarded Job with twice as many possessions as he had before his trial of faith. His children were doubled too because he had ten more children with him and ten "passed on" children that waited for him, just like David's baby waited for him.
(Eph. 6:11-18) We; you, and me, and every Christian, are in a spiritual war for our place in heaven. Your fight, JUST LIKE DAVID AND JOB, is with your attitude toward and reaction to how the devil, church people, the world and its people affect you! IF YOU ARE PERFECT PLEASE STAND UP AND WAVE; WE NEED TO SEE YOU! It is every Christian's war with his own carnal tendencies. (Psa. 18:1-3 & John 14:15-18) Your strength, your fortress, your deliverer, your strength in whom to trust is Jesus through the Holy Spirit!
(Matt. 6:13 one more time) "And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil:" AND: (Heb. 13:5) Jesus said; “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Sometimes we must get right down into the nitty-gritty blood and mud of our spiritual arena and fight it out knuckle and skull. Have you ever been unable to feel God in your life?
Of course you have; we all have. That’s God’s way of getting you closer to him and developing your faith. Have you ever simply run off and left God behind by not listening to His word or His Holy Spirit? Of course you have; we all have. (Heb. 4:14-16 esp. V.15) Jesus has been there too; He was tempted just like us. (Matt. 27:44-46) Even in obedience there was a time when even Jesus couldn't feel God.
These spiritual battles take place behind the faces of Christians; in their souls; back in that dark and terrible battleground where nobody is allowed to see; back there behind their faces in the wasteland of devastation. Lots of things bring on these battles with self ; a dead child or other loved one, a lost house, a cantankerous car or lawnmower, covetousness, an unkind word received or sent, meanness received or sent, sin, the list is endless.
It may be the little old lady in the grocery line who nods and smiles; it may be the guy eating lunch at the table next to you with the absentminded look on his face; it may be the person who works right beside you; it may be the lady singing in the choir, your Pastor, the guy praying right beside you in church; it's the battle you never see because it's inside us; inside our soul where our life is: I know. I've been there.
Sometimes you'll see us right in the moment of victory and never know it. I'm sure you've seen your Pastor; especially that Sunday when his preaching seemed to take a turn toward Christian love; it's still there too, like a gentle thread running through every message. That special Sunday, that Sunday it all turned around and he became a better Pastor; "Lord, they're a killing me. I'm worn out. I didn't know a flock of your sheep could be so mean, uncaring, lazy and cantankerous." That's when, through the Lord Jesus, he overcame anger, disgust, doubt, fear, and pride.
Fear is terrible; it makes a Pastor dread going to his own church. Pride is even worse; it makes him want to scratch itching ears so he'll be well liked and well known. He'll call failure success and call defeat victory and lead the whole church into the ditch of hypocrisy. Pastor is a shepherd not a cheerleader.
Jesus, the only source, knows your Pastor's got another battle right around the corner and He'll have to fight fear or pride again. Seems like Pastor has to fight fear and/or pride almost every week.
Victory is in the little old lady taking a fresh apple pie over to that lost, hateful, nosey, old Biddy who lives next door. Through the Lord Jesus she's received the strength to overcome the fear and try one more time to get through the flint encased heart, find the fertile ground and plant some Jesus seed there.
Sometimes, well, a lot of the time our trouble is our own fault. "Look at this! Look at this! I told you I wanted one scrambled egg and one fried egg for breakfast and you scrambled the wrong one!" He's the shamefaced guy over there looking at the quit time clock. "Wonder what he's doing with the bouquet of roses? What a nice man; I'll bet they're for his wife! I sure wish my husband was more like him."
Be careful, you might just get your wish. Yes, oh my yes, our troubles verge on the ridiculous but they are just as deadly (Song 2:15) because "the little foxes spoil the vine": the little sins unresolved beget bigger sins that destroy souls.
Victory is in the little old guy who's a shut in but still on the church prayer chain; he's still up and swinging with both fists fighting for his place and he'll make it too through the Lord Jesus. What in the world could he have to fight against? Doubt: the devil whispers; "You're not doing any good with your wasted body, your telephone calls and your prayer chain." and the little guy thinks; "What in the world good am I doing in this wasted body and this stupid telephone"; then he cries bitter tears of frustration and he prays.
Jesus whispers in that still small voice, "Your prayers are helping hold your church together. Yeah, your church that don't ever come and see you; your church that never comes to sing and fellowship with you. Yeah, your church that gives you that little fruit basket once a year on Christmas."
Jesus speaking; "I'm Jesus and I know what it is; It's a hypocrite gift to assuage their own conscience so they can pat themselves on the back about what a great church they are and rejoice in the Lord. I'm keeping a tab that's listed in (1Cor.3:10-23), it's called the works of the saved. You hold your sword high my child, you're the best soldier I've got in that church. You keep praying for them and maybe you can convince Me to go and light a revival fire under them.
(Rev.2:1 thru 3:22) I'll light a real "Christ Fire" in that church. They won't come out rejoicing, dancing and singing God's praises. It'll be quiet except for their sobbing and praying there at My altar in their sackcloth and ashes of regret and repentance. Maybe I'll be able to warm My hands at that fire; it's so cold in that church now I just show up once in a while and they don't even miss Me when I'm not there. You keep praying my brave, humble, gentle soldier your REDEMPTION FROM DEATH AND SORROW draweth nigh."
Victory is the teen on the way to school to face more Godlessness and ridicule. It's the Mom, the only Christian in the family, alone at home praying for the safety and salvation of her husband and kids. She's had a hard fight to get in that praying shape; she had to pray for herself first and go apologize for what she said to that grumpy old neighbor who yelled at her kids.
It's the Dad at his desk; you think he's just resting his eyes a minute; "Look at the tears; that computer screen's burning his eyes out." No! No! It's love burning his heart out; his boy is out running wild and Daddy is praying his guts out right there and there's blood on the words.
There's always blood on the words when you lay your soul on the line. It's the lady in the cafeteria; you think she's just staring off into space for a few seconds, chewing absentmindedly, but she's fighting desperately for the soul of her only brother. Oh, if you could only see them with spiritual eyes; they're like knights in shining armor going forth to do battle with the devil for the souls of those they love; for the strength to help build God's kingdom; and to find out how to become a better Christian too.
Victory is that old white haired guy laughing and singing in his old beat up car. He was crying there behind the wheel; he's been praying and fasting; "Oh God! Oh God! Give me that I might know Thee better." This time God really done it! He gave the old feller a vision in his soul that almost tore that wrinkled up old meat wagon he calls his body plumb apart!
God gave him a vision of the Authority Principal and shoutin' ground and he can't wait to get home and write about it and serve the Master of Forever Who has REDEMPTION FROM SEPARATION in His spear scarred side, REDEMPTION FROM DEATH in His nail scarred hands and REDEMPTION FROM SORROW in His nail scarred feet. It's always through Jesus; never through self (me). Jesus is everything and self is nothing.
Like I said; I know; I've been there and it's a war for your soul. You'll see the results when we win; you'll notice that we are kinder, friendlier, gentler, more understanding, more willing and eager to help; happy to give self and things; to listen; we're a lot quicker to say I love you and to show it.
You'll see the results when the battle is lost too; you'll see the losers' miss church now and then; then more often; then their seat will be empty. Some of them stick around for a while, sometimes a long time, but you can always tell; they go against scripture, they are the troublemakers, they drag people down, they argue and strain at gnats; they split congregations and give Pastors conniption fits.
It's always somebody else's fault too; "If that one or the other one hadn't said------- to me (self); if this one or that one hadn't done------- to me (self); OR: I'll do what I (self) want to do;" they'll justify it by scripture; "if you can just read the scripture my (self) way." That's why God hates pride.
PRIDE IS A MOTHER EMOTION because pride begets stubbornness, anger, self-righteousness, rebellion, self-justification, self-deception, evil communication, backbiting, wrath, malice, all of those sins mentioned in the Bible that will destroy your eternity.
You may run into the losers on the street sometime when you are out witnessing. "Hi there, how are you?" Well, I'm fine, how are you?" "I'm really doing good, I'm sure happy I'm a Christian. Are you a Christian?" "Well, I used to be a Christian, but----." THE BATTLE, YOUR WAR, IS WITH YOURSELF!
Remember my battle with myself during my divorce in part 2? This is the spiritual aspect of that battle. Asleep or awake? A vision? Some odd, weird, concentrated product from my own brain? I don't know, but this is what I saw.
(Eph. 6:11-18) It was a lonely, fearful, dreadful, terrible time when I looked around and God wasn't there. I have walked right into an ambush and before I know it I'm in a whirlwind of struggle. I fight and fight but all I do is grow weaker as the battle rages. The demons are all about me jeering and cursing and attacking me there in a torn, blood soaked arena.
(Eph. 6:10-17) My Christian armor I was so proud of; my truth, righteousness, gospel of peace, faith and salvation, are burned, slashed, battered, dented, cut to pieces and hanging in shreds about me and I am sore wounded again and again. My sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, was too weak and I broke it. The demons are whirling and mocking, stabbing and jabbering, ripping and tormenting me. They're growing stronger and I'm losing and I know it.
Suddenly I can somehow see them more clearly and I recognize them. There’s Doubt right in front of me jeering at me. Over there is Fear sharpening his sword to take me apart. Sloth is burnishing his shield to blind me. Back behind me are the unholy twins, Hot Temper and Evil Communication, sneaking up on me. There’s Lust twisting, and strutting, and licking bloated lips; my goodness, Lust looks just like that beautiful, wonderful, sexy person at my job or is it the one where I get my gas?
Stubborn is sharpening his spear to rip out my vitals with a killing thrust. There's Greed with his garrote to strangle me. There's Wrath and Malice on my right flank AND: there's the evil triplets, Inordinate Affection, Covetousness and Filthy Communication on my left flank. PRIDE and two of his many children Jealousy and Anger are like some smothering, clinging, inescapable, unholy presence and they curse me. Rude and Arrogant are standing tall. "Oh No! Ill Humor and Bad Manners are right up against me!"
That DEVIL, their commanding general, Satan, in all his glittering rebellion, is whispering, suggesting, enticing, sometimes shouting, urging, goading them on. Over there is my greatest enemy; it's SELF; holding up a dead black, cold as ice, reflectionless mirror so I cannot see my awful reflection in it!
Self''s three most horrid, evil children are right with him: Self-Righteousness has his seat of the scornful to sit me on. Self-Justification has his deadly shroud ready to blind me. Self-Deception has a sniper's rifle and camouflage. They all come at me in wild devilish fury, whirling, and slashing, and destroying and all I have to fight with is this ridiculous haft of my sword in my hand because I broke the blade off. And they cut me into ribbons of agony.
(Gal. 5:17 & Eph. 6:8-18) Satan has used carnal me against spiritual me! I'm about to die; it's almost over. Overwhelming pain and terror, sweaty and staggering, trembling and weak, dreadful darkness shrouded, and frustration’s tears are streaming down my face. I know I can't win! For the last time I peer through the visor of my bent and battered helmet of salvation and there the devils are, smirking and mocking, they are gathered for the final onslaught that will overrun me and wipe me out.
(Mark 9:17-27 esp. V.24) Just like the nameless man with the devil possessed son so long ago; it isn’t pretty; there’s no wonderful, beautiful words of praise and glory; no great swelling oratory; just the gasping, bloody words from a defeated, broken and contrite heart filled with unutterable desperation. Through the tears and sweat, blood and agony, the words bubble from the depths of my soul and there's blood on them; “Oh God! ABBA, help me! I’m going down.”
Suddenly there is an eerie, deadly, absolute silence. Somehow, with feeble, beaten trembling I manage to raise my head. "Oh God! Oh God!" There they are; a band of angels with terrible, avenging swords and faces like lightening; they're in a circle facing outward and the devils are finally stilled. I hear a voice, beautiful beyond compare, singing the sweet refrain of the beautiful melody of mercy.
Weaving and staggering I somehow turn and its Jesus come from a far place called the glory of everlasting to rescue me. "Oh God! Oh God! Rescue! Me? I'm not worth it!" With wilting relief I start to crumble but the gracious Master of forever catches me and gently, ever so gently, eases me to the bloody ground with my head and shoulders on His lap. On my back I look up I realize I'm under the cross and it's His blood on the ground, not mine and I start to cry.
(Psa. 37:23-24 & Heb. 13:5-6)
"My blood was on you all the time.
Twas My blood that let you see.
Twas My blood that cleared your mind.
Twas My blood that set you free.
Tis My blood, clean and fine.
My blood, but none from thee."
"He tenderly strips off my reeking, tattered armor. “Don’t worry child, I’m here and Satan is fled this place.” Gently the Lord of lords, the King of kings, bathes my aching spiritual wounds with His tender pity and binds them with His gracious compassion and He's speaking while He strengthens; "You will fight with yourself on other battlefields but, through Me, you'll win again".
With matchless grace He gives me a transfusion of His own blood and I'm new again, cleansed and already healing. He whispers into the ear of my soul; “I’ll protect you while you heal and when you are well again you’ll be stronger than you’ve ever been. I’ll give you a brand new set of armor and a stronger, better sword of the Spirit which is the word of God with which to fight.” Then, just before He leaves, with unsearchable tender pity and boundless love, Jesus gives me a long, long renewing drink from His cup of blessing.
"Oh! Oh Master! ABBA! Thank You for lettin' me under the spout where the glory comes out; YOU'VE PUT ME ON SHOUTIN’ GROUND here under Your cross. I'm covered with Your blood and I need to yell at the top of my lungs; (Matt. 6:13) "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.”
Your Christian relationship with God, depending on your values, is directly proportional to your reaction to and your attitude toward what the world, its people and church people offer you and do to you.
THE BATTLE IS NOT WITH LIFE; THE BATTLE IS WITH YOUR REACTION TO LIFE AND THE ATTITUDE YOU HAVE ABOUT WHAT LIFE DOES TO YOU; THE BATTLE, YOUR WAR, IS WITH YOURSELF. Winning is always through Jesus; He's the only source of victory.
Ever been there? (Rom. 7:18-20 esp. V.19) The apostle Paul was there! (1Pet. 1:13-17) Maybe you simply didn't recognize the fight, OR: (2Pet. 2:9-10) maybe you just ran away from who you are; OR: (Titus 3:8) maybe you didn't care; OR: (1John 1:7 thru 2:2) maybe you are perfect. Which?
You may have a problem believing the rest of this so; FIRST READ: (John 15:14; Prov. 18:24; Rom. 8:15-17; & John 11:26) Below are two spiritual events that are the result of, through the spiritual power of Jesus, a Christian's physical victory in his fight, his war, with his own attitude toward and his own reaction to how the devil, the world and its people have affected him.
Remember the autonomic nervous system at the creation in Part 1? (Heb. 9:27) "And as it is appointed unto men once to die," BUT: (John 11:26) Jesus said; “And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” The respirator is gently wheezing. The heart monitor is quietly measuring and beeping its little, spiky, ever slowing line.
There are needles, and tubes, and bags of mysterious liquid flowing into my ever narrowing veins. Sadness and tender pity etching their faces, my dear friends and loving family have gathered there in the white room to bid me a fond, loving farewell. They don't care that the chairs are hard and uncomfortable; they don't care that the room is a little too cold; they have come to be with their dear one in the final, futility of life.
They are already whispering those charming little stories of my bright, smiling life lived; it's the only eternity they have to give me, there in their warm hearts. Perhaps there's a bit of selfishness in it too; they want to affirm their own being and if they can keep me alive in their memories maybe they won't have to think about their own coming final, futility of life. But I am changing!
The hospital must grind on about its business of doctoring, nursing and administering hopeless hope and those sounds penetrate the room; the clatter of a dropped tray, the bump of a cart, a disembodied voice over the intercom, the sounds of hurry and bustle. I can't hear so it don't matter.
My lovelies may already be thinking of choices; what were his favorite clothes, will we put praying hands on the casket, what will I wear to his funeral, what kind of flowers will we get?
My dear ones can't help but stare, count and wonder; "It's down to minutes now, maybe even seconds." (Luke 16:22) But they don't know I've already slipped away because some angels came to help me. (Gen. 3:19) "REDEMPTION FROM DEATH." I've got things to do and I'm in a hurry. After all, the Son of God made me a promise one time. That old wore out body can go ahead and die all by itself when its autonomic nervous system finally quits; I'm already gone!
Two Eden curses down and one to go! (John 8:51-56; 11:26 & Heb. 2:9-14 key: Jesus beat death when He came back from death) "And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die." (Rev. 1:18) Jesus has the keys of hell and death. (1Cor. 15:55) "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"
(Matt. 16:24-27; 2Cor. 7:4-5 & Rom. 7:18-19)
There's been fear and grief
and sometimes weak belief.
Sometimes more than I could stand
but I held tight to Jesus' hand.
Failure and pain I could not bear
but Jesus was always there.
Over and over, Satan's vile refrain
but I always called on Jesus' name.
His love and strength are mine
and sad sorrow is left behind.
(Eph. 6:10-18) Remember the spiritual armor? I've hurried and the angels have started back to help somebody else. Right there, right there in front of me is a sandy shore beside a river of darkness and over on the other side is the prettiest light I've ever seen and faint voices are singing: "Amazing grace how sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me!" There is a sure peace and contentment that surrounds me.
(Eph. 6:10-18) I stick my sword of the Spirit up in the sand. There's spiritual chips, nicks and bloodstains where I fought the evil that came at me. "Twas grace that taught my heart to fear," I take my great shield of faith off my arm. It's covered with spiritual cuts and slashes where it has protected me so well; and I drop it in the sand. "And grace my fears relieved."
It's silent around me but over there, over on the other side; over where the beautiful light is glowing they're still singing and some of the voices sound familiar. "Tis grace that brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home." That’s when I notice the haft and guard of my sword of the Spirit form a perfect cross and I grin and shiver a little bit.
A little quicker now, I slip off my helmet of salvation and silently regard the spiritual dents, and dings, and bangs from the battles I fought. I'm breathing a little faster as thrilling trills of joy race over me. I can't help but whisper; “Oh my, oh my, there's a feeling in the air! I'm close! I'm close! I'm close!”
Impatiently I kick off my shoes of the gospel of peace and ungird my loins so long protected by the truth. With glad, excited, trembling fingers I fumble at the buckles of the straps that hold my breastplate of righteousness in place. (1Cor. 2:9) There's love in the air and the scent of wonder, and joy, and beauty far beyond my wildest imagining.
There’s a light coming across the darkness toward me and I'm breathless with excitement. I finally get my breastplate of righteousness off and I don't even notice that it's fiery dart scarred, and battered, and scraped. All that don't matter anymore because I'm too glad to remember the bad things.
(Gen. 3:16-17) "REDEMPTION FROM SORROW" The third Eden curse is gone! With a careless hand I drop my breastplate on the pile of armor scattered around my sword; I'll never need it again. It's easy to run; it's never been like this before; because I'm already filled with forever as I dash effortlessly with thrilling gladness toward the coming light.
(Eph. 3:8-9) There is a changing and all of a sudden I'm like a child laughing, and laughing, and laughing with pure joy and I'm all caught up in the vast anticipation of the goodness, kindness and immeasurable love that's coming to get me.
The singing is rising, rising, and I can hear my Son and my Dad's voices clear as a bell; my goodness I didn't know they could sing so pretty; "Bright shining as the sun; We've no less days to sing God's praise, Than when we first begun." THE PROMISE:
(1Cor.13:12) The ark of safety grinds up on shore so I don't have to put even one toe into the river of the darkness of death and (Rev. 5:6) Jesus, in all of His glory, smiles and extends His nail scarred hand. Remember the creation?
(John 15:14-15) Creator and created, God and man; we stare into the eternity in each other's warm, loving, friendly, smiling eyes. (John 10:30) With soaring gladness and loving, humble trust I take ABBA'S warm, (Rev. 5:6 keyword-slain) nail scarred hand. His voice is musical beyond compare and I, all of me, inside and out, am bathed in His love and kindness.
(John 11:26) “Come on in my good and faithful servant. I made you a promise one time so let's take a ride across death 'cause we’re goin’ to SHOUTIN’ GROUND." “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.”
Jesus said it, Jesus did it, it will happen and that too is just the way it is!