Friday, November 16, 2012

360° of Peril

Recently another greatly beloved and highly anointed Pastor fell.  His congregation reeled, greatly wounded from the violent and totally unexpected amputation of their shepherd. . . Really the metaphor of amputation for this, as destructive as that is, is too clean of a process to describe what happens when a pastor is removed from a church in this manner. This is no clean separation as a removal of a limb with a knife, but a tearing away, as in a horrific rending of flesh, with jagged pieces of muscle and skin and bone, rupturing and tearing from the body which could have. . . should have remained forever joined, but even if required to part, would have sustained less damage if performed in an orderly, and planned, cleanly surgical amputation.  

Our church lost its shepherd in such an event, and still feels the effects more than twelve years later.  The trauma to the body of the church in this event is malefic beyond understanding outside of the actual experience. . .

Currently as I type these words, a brilliant, popular, and highly respected former general is publicly disgraced, his decades long career lies in tatters under his feet. . . Beyond the destruction of his career. . . The effect of the horror of this betrayal on his wife and children, yes even adult children. . .their world forever changed. . . their opinion. . . their view of him, never ever to be fully restored.  Once admired by millions and almost universally looked to as an inspiration. . .Who can trust such a man again?  His self-destruction is complete. The rest of his years, will be defined by this immorality.  In the eyes of men, there will be no going beyond this moment.  

How does a beloved pastor. . . a teacher, an expert on the mind and will of God fall into immorality. What causes a general, a man whose life for decades revolved around strict military discipline. . . a patriotic man whose life is forged from duty. . . honor. . . country. . . to take a completely unpatriotic, and selfish path? When such a man abandons his duty. . . shames his honor, and betrays his country. . .What hope is there for me?  When gods are so easily vanquished, what hope remains for mere mortals?

We must learn from the mistakes of others.  We must take warning and learn from those who fall. Daily we walk with spiritual danger on every side. . . Daily we endure 360 degrees of peril. Temptations are found to the front, rear, on each flank. . . even above and below us are paths leading to destruction. That is the scenario of a strategic, and a tactical defeat.  No army can ever survive in such an exposed and weak position, and as Christians, as men and women of righteousness, and honor, we cannot falter. . .Surrender is not an option. We must find a way to prevail.

We must recognize the unfriendly field on which we camp.  In one sense we have no choice.  Until the day of our last breath, we are in the world.  We cannot choose to move to the Promised Land, or the Garden of Eden.  To attempt Heaven before our time, assures us of not gaining it.  To physically escape the world, is impossible, and to attempt to do so, misses the inescapable fact that no matter where we go we carry the world with us, for as much as we are in the world, the world also is within us.

Do you think life would but be perfect, if only you and your family. . . maybe your church family included, would be able to escape to an isolated island?  The escape you long for cannot be seen merely as escape from the worldliness, and the sin without. . . our greatest danger is from the worldliness, and sin within each of us.

The example of the Hebrew’s 40 year desert journey shows us all we need to learn of that type of experiment.  Not possessing a land of their own. . . ever traveling through the wastelands, their greatest problems were not external.  God provided for their physical needs.  It wasn’t other people who caused them the greatest problems, but insurrection, and rebellion arose regularly from within their own tribes. . .from within the Hebrew family itself.  Without the direct intervention of God, these internal strifes would have fragmented the Hebrew people and destroyed them before their nation was even established.

The world is very dangerous to us, so our first priority must be to find a place of safety.  No army, no matter how strong, can survive in a completely exposed and vulnerable position, but we do not have to content ourselves with hiding behind a small bush, or even a large boulder.

Psalms 61:1-4
To the chief Musician upon Neginah, A Psalm of David. Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer.  (2)  From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.  (3)  For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.  (4)  I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings. Selah.

Our God Himself is our protection. The Lord is our castle, our ‘strong tower from the enemy’. . . a shelter for us. . . a rock that is higher than us.

Psalms 91:1-16
He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.  (2)  I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.  (3)  Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.  (4)  He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.  (5)  Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;  (6)  Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.  (7)  A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.  (8)  Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.  (9)  Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;  (10)  There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.  (11)  For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.  (12)  They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.  (13)  Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.  (14)  Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.  (15)  He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.  (16)  With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.

For our safety we must abide in Him, and by this we mean our spiritual safety.  There is no other safety which means anything.

Jesus speaking:

(Matthew 10:28)
And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Too many have enough food to eat, clean water to drink, nice clothes, a nice house. . . a newer car, good health, a job that pays the bills, and by these physical comforts, they judge their lives to be a success, while their souls are filled with darkness.  They know nothing of God and His requirements of righteousness, and holiness.  Thinking themselves safe, in reality they are but one heartbeat from spending eternity in the agonized suffering of hell.

If they could see their lives with spiritual eyes, they are treading on the edge of a crumbling cliff.  The pleasant view lulling them into ignoring the peril if their way. . . The pleasant view of the way, causing them to forget to check the destination at the end of their journey.  

Jesus tells us to ignore the fear of unemployment, or being made homeless. . . but to fear those things which lead us away from God, and kill us spiritually.

2 Timothy 2:1-4
Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  (2)  And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.  (3)  Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.  (4)  No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.

The disgraced general. . . the beloved pastor who fell, I am convinced that at one time they were men of honor and righteousness, but they allowed themselves to become entangled with things of the world, and thereby lost their spiritual way.  There is no safety in having lived long years for the Lord. Each day brings a new battle, and requires a new commitment to God. We are never granted tenure as Christians.  There is never a point where we may rest upon our reputation, or past accomplishments for the kingdom.

We must constantly be on guard, and actively measure the things we allow into our lives, for their effect upon our relationship with God.

Hebrews 12:1
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.  (25)  And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.  (26)  I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:  (27)  But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

We are in a race. . . a battle, and only those who finish the race will be partakers of the prize.  Paul recognized the danger of growing close to the finish line, and losing focus. . . rounding the last bend, and losing the fervency, and dedication. . . the discipleship, and commitment to God which we had when we first started.  Maintain spiritual vigilance as a soldier on watch.  Measure, challenge, and cast out those things from your life, which would supplant God.

Without doubt, the most memorable passage of the Bible regarding, our Christian walk in terms of soldiering the following:

Ephesians 6:10-17
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.  (11)  Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  (12)  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.  (13)  Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.  (14)  Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;  (15)  And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;  (16)  Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.  (17)  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

God has given us armor to protect us.  I frequently hear people say that they put on their armour each day. . .But as a soldier, why do you ever remove your spiritual armour?  For I am convinced that the only way that we may be defeated, is if we take off our armor.

At one point the fallen general and pastor, at the minimum must have removed their breastplate of righteousness.  Maybe they thought that their shield of faith, and their helmet of salvation would provide sufficient protection. . . maybe they fooled themselves in that having their loins covered with truth, and having the sword of the Word if God strapped to their side would allow them to prevail, but without the complete suit of armour, the enemy will surely ignore our areas of strength, and commit his attacks on those places we are uncovered.  

Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and the Word of God. . .We cannot leave any of these components of our battle gear.  With these we must clothe ourselves when we come to God, and on the day of our last breath they must still be found upon us.  There is never a time for a warrior. . . and we are ever warriors. . . There is never a time when all our armour is not needed.

We must recognize ourselves as warriors.  If we do not maintain our vigilance. . . If we fall asleep on our watch. . . If we forget our daily peril. . . If we lapse in our training. . . If we remove pieces of our armour or allow it to fall into disrepair. . . We face an enemy, who will press any advantage we give him. . . who will use any opening or weakness to drive home a fatal attack. . . BUT!

1 John 4:4
Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

Greater is HE that is in you than he that is in the world. . .The only way we lose is by wilful surrender. . .Our enemy cannot overcome our fortress. . . our armour. . . the righteous General we serve under. . .

I love you my God. . .
I thank you my Lord. . .
  my Protector. . .
  my Salvation. ..
  my Fortress, and my Rock. . .

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