Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Promise Of The Spirit.3

"I will not leave you comfortless. Now it is necessary for you that I go away; for if I do not leave, the Comforter, the very breath of God, will not come to dwell among you. If I depart, I will send him to you.

When he has come, he will reveal to the world what is sin, and what is righteousness and judgment. 

Sin, because you do not believe in me; 

Righteousness, because I go to my Father, and you will not see me; 

Judgment, because the oppressive power of the prince of this world has been broken."

The number one movie in the USA now is Lone Survivor, the story of Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell's dedicated effort to give an account to the heroism of his friends lost in battle. Trying to squeeze the events that shape a man's life into a ninety minute film is like writing his two paragraph obituary; unfortunately, its about the most an average person is willing to endure.

Endurance is the hallmark of the training it takes to be a 
SEAL and is the reason why average men don't make it.
Truthfully, not many even way above average men make it.  Of the 180 men who started the training in Luttrell's class only 32 completed it!  "Hell Week", a monstrously grueling week marked by explosions, gunfire, panic, sleeplessness, hunger, frigid cold, pain, danger, hallucinations, and exhaustion is designed to separate the pretenders from the defenders. A bell is situated near the various exercises and is used when a DOR (dropped on request) rings the bell and sets down his helmet next to the previous man who has signaled enough.  
"That line of lonely hard hats was a stark reminder not only of what this place could do to a man but also of the special private glory it could bestow on those who would not give in.  It drove me onward...I'd rather die than surrender." --Marcus Luttrell
Honestly, I believe that quote from Marcus describes the kind of comfort the Holy Spirit ultimately is sent to give us: not coddling from the difficulties of life but the internal inspiration that endurance through those difficulties is producing something in us of eternal value!

Now if we are honest with ourselves, don't we "ring the bell" almost daily? Jesus, the Captain of our Faith, takes us through grueling obstacle courses to reveal what in us is just not right...let's call it what it is: Sin.  Just yesterday my integrity and courage were tested in the course of a business transaction.  I didn't need a bible study to know I was wrong, I didn't need to argue that Jesus was unfair, misunderstanding, too harsh or demanding, I needed to renew my pledge to do the right thing to the Man who is our Righteousness.

"If you want to know righteousness, love a righteous man."  I love The Righteous One, whom, even though I've never seen him, I know him because I know something about righteousness and truth and love.  How?  Because He is constantly teaching me what it means!

Are you glad we have men of the caliber of a Marcus Luttrell defending the principles of our constitutional way of life?  Men who, because of the rigorous training and testing, can make capable judgement in the most demanding circumstances against a powerful and relentless enemy bent on our destruction.

May we have the wisdom and commitment, as followers of Jesus Christ, to recognize that although we have a powerful and relentless enemy bent on destruction of the soul, we are being fully trained & tested to endure and overcome!

"I have been initiated into the company of those whose work is to send sin out of the world, beginning with myself."

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Promise Of The Spirit.2

"If you love me, then keep my commandments. And I will pray to the Father, and he will give you another comforter to be with you forever. His is the breath of truth. The world does not accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you will know him, for he will dwell with you, and in you."

"I'm glad," sighed the retiring elder, "to leave ministry to you younger's just getting too complicated."  As an upstart know-it-all, I easily brushed aside the remark with a careless thought: "ministry is probably glad to see you go, you old dinosaur".

Today, I'm the dinosaur.  And ministry is complicated a hundredfold. Just yesterday I ran into a former parishioner who, after an obligatory "how are you?", proceeded to unload her laundry list of grief.  A list that reflects the damage of a sin-torn world, and the frustration of not finding satisfying remedies - inside the church or out.

And as a former pastor I no longer have the vantage point of
dishing out my sage wisdom, pearls of advice and keen prescriptions perched upon my lofty branch of Doctrinal Purity.  The branch is broken and the "I told you so's" have lost their bluster.

The pain of sin manifests itself in so many ways
  • destructive relationships
  • destroying disease
  • debilitating deadening of hope
Can there be any comfort outside of Truth?

This is the Truth we cling to: 
"I came that they might have Life!"
"...let us arise and live! 
-arise even in the darkest moments of spiritual stupidity, when hope itself sees nothing to hope for. Let us not trouble ourselves about the cause of our earthliness, except we know it to be some unrighteousness in us, but go at once to the Life.
Never, never let us accept as consolation the poor suggestion, that the cause of our deadness is physical/circumstantial.

Can it be comfort to know that this body of ours, because of the death in it, is too much for the spirit-which ought not merely to triumph over it, but to inspire it with subjection and obedience?
Let us comfort ourselves in the thought of the Father and the Son. So long as there dwells harmony, so long as the Son loves the Father with all the love the Father can welcome, all is well with the little ones.

God is all right-why should we mind standing in the dark for a minute outside his window? Of course we miss the inness, but there is a bliss of its own in waiting. What if the rain be falling, and the wind

blowing; what if we stand alone, or, more painful still, have some dear one beside us, sharing our outness; what even if the window be not shining, because of the curtains of inscrutable good drawn across it; let us think to ourselves, or say to our friend,
'God is;
      Jesus is not dead;
           nothing can be going wrong, however it may look so to hearts unfinished in childness.'
Let us say to the Lord, 'Jesus, art thou loving the Father in there? Then we out here will do his will, patiently waiting till he open the door. We shall not mind the wind or the rain much. Perhaps thou art saying to the Father, "Thy little ones need some wind and rain: their buds are hard; the flowers do not come out. I cannot get them made blessed without a little more winter-weather."
Then perhaps the Father will say,
"Comfort them, my son Jesus, with the memory of thy patience when thou wast missing me.
Comfort them that thou wast sure of me when everything about thee seemed so unlike me, so unlike the place thou hadst left." '
In a word, let us be at peace, because peace is at the heart of things-peace and utter satisfaction between the Father and the Son-in which peace they call us to share; in which peace they promise that at length,
when they have their good way with us,
we shall share."

Adapted from The Creation In Christ, Unspoken Sermons III, George MacDonald, emphasis added.