Random Blog Clay Feet: January 22, 2009
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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Remember the Prisoners - 1

Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body. (Hebrews 13:1-3)

I just received a sixteen page letter from a man who used to be one of the only people I could really open up with and talk about deep spiritual issues without fear or bias. A number of very painful events have transpired over the past few years that have driven a wedge of misunderstanding between us and caused him to think that he could not trust me. Consequently there has been a number of years pass where we have not been able to communicate hardly at all due to the false assumptions planted by the enemy of God that has divided our unity.

This has been very painful for me. I knew that he did not really understand my perspective, my lack of animosity toward him, my willingness to continue to have a relationship of trust. But because he made choices that compelled him to remove himself from membership in the church in which he had believed for all of his life, he evidently felt that there was no way I could relate to where he was at spiritually. But in fact it seemed to me to be the other way around. It was the assumptions about me that he chose to embrace that became the obstacles preventing us from communicating and enjoying each other's fellowship instead of the things he assumed I thought about him that were not true.

I have longed for many years to be able to get past the false assumptions he had about me and to restore our friendship and openness that we used to enjoy. But each time we did speak for a brief time it seemed that there were many unspoken feelings under the surface that strongly influenced what he thought I was really thinking about him. It is a terrible thing, this issue of lies and assumptions that drives friends apart and causes people to judge others without being willing to allow full disclosure or reconciliation. I do not hold this against him in the least, for it is quite clear to me that given his context, his past and the traumatizing events that have taken place at different times in his life that it would be very easy for him to withdraw and not feel safe trusting himself with others.

This man has gone through horrors that most people would only find imaginary and material for television drama. And even then such a show would only convey a small part of the pain and fear that he has experienced. In recent years, because he has chosen to follow his conscience to the best of his ability and knowledge, his decisions have put him on a different track than the mainstream of society and has elicited even more scorn, derision and rejection by many of the very people who should be there to encourage and strengthen him. But because most people who claim the name of Christ seem more interested in maintaining a comfortable life with little regard to issues of conscience, they cannot understand or relate to a person who is determined to follow a path of integrity in the face of all opposition.

As a result, nearly everyone familiar with his situation has withdrawn from him, assumed that he is guilty of disloyalty to the government and to the church, and consequently is out of favor with God. This idea of loyalty to the state being given equality with loyalty to God is a very dangerous assumption within the Christian community. But as I thought about it more this morning I realized that this has nearly always been the case throughout history. Consider closely the history of many of God's prophets and messengers and it can be seen that many of them were considered outlaws of a sort, rebels against the authority of the governments under which they lived and worthy of punishment or even death.

But this makes sense when one thinks about it logically. All human governments are simply expressions of the will of collections of like-minded people in a society who make laws and manipulate power to impose their opinions and control over everyone within their territory. Because all humanity is sinful and selfish by nature, then governments are always going to reflect false principles that will be to some degree in opposition to the principles of heaven. Sooner or later God's true followers are always going to find themselves at odds with human governments and will be forced to decide which power to give their highest allegiance to, which authority they are going to obey. No matter which way they choose they are always going to find themselves at odds with one authority or another, either in violation of their accountability in their conscience before God or in disagreement with the arbitrary demands of a corrupt government.

This is where my friend now finds himself. He has been accused by the state of not complying with conformance to their illegitimate demands and has been thrown into a federal prison for many months now, longer than what is even considered legal. He has never had a trial or conviction, but this seems of little interest to the judges on his case. In fact, it seems very apparent to most observers that the judges have been deliberately manipulating the legal system to keep him imprisoned with no recourse or justice in order to cover their own corruption and thirst for power. He has become the focal point of potential exposure of much of the corruption in the government that wants to convict him and as a result they have done everything possible to repress and isolate him from all recourse to real justice.

Meanwhile, his health is slowly deteriorating while he languishes in a prison in which there is no appeal for escape but without any conviction of a crime. Yesterday I received a sixteen page letter that detailed the horrors he is experiencing in prison life. It is crystal clear that this is not just a place of social confinement and isolation, this is a house of horrors, a den of demonic activity from which there is no relief day or night except for a very few hours in the early morning. The constant abuse and the incessant, intense level of vulgarity and demonic sounds that fill the place are a constant source of torture to this honest-hearted Christian who is misunderstood by nearly all of his former friends.

Even when he appeared in a courtroom to meet once again the corrupt judges determined to keep him locked away without trial, his testimony of his relationship to God was met with loud scoffing, laughter and calls for a mental examination to prove that he is insane. The level of total godlessness in the so-called halls of justice has become so evident that my friend shudders with horror at the potential consequences they may suffer from their flagrant disrespect of God's holy name and character.

As I read through his letter, my emotions were nearly raw and very delicate to some extent. I had to even wait for a day before I felt emotionally strong enough to begin reading the letter. I cannot explain why that is, but somehow I sensed that I needed to have God's presence to support me before I had the emotional capacity to even start reading this. I needed joy – the presence of someone willing and glad to be with me through this intense experience.

Not only did I have God's Spirit with me but my wife kindly waited until I was ready and then sat and read it after me. That too is another source of joy – someone glad to go through things with me and share emotional experiences of every kind. I have been learning a lot about the true definition of joy over the past few years and it has helped me understand reality better and how God designed us much better than I ever realized before.

As I thought about my friends situation after waking up this morning, I realized that, except for God's intervention and protection, I could just as easily be in his exact spot. There is no reason why I might not be in prison suffering all of the endless horrors and demonic attacks and health problems just as he is right now. I could just as easily be the one rejected by all of my friends, misunderstood and discredited and labeled as an outlaw and a disgrace to Christianity. I am just as vulnerable as he is to being subjected to the very same attacks by the enemy. The only difference is not what either of us deserve but that God somehow at this point in time has a different plan for my life than for his right now.

As I thought about this I told my wife that I want to cherish the time that we still have to enjoy with each other. I realize that the enemy of truth and right is hell bent on destroying and eliminating everything good and right on this earth. This is not just a scuffle between right and wrong, a somewhat polite war of opinions about who is telling the truth and who is lying. This is an all-out vicious battle to the death between the titanic, combined human and supernatural forces of evil in league with each other pitted against the principles of goodness, righteousness, love and God's plans for the universe. I just read this morning about this intense warfare that is coming to a climax in our days, and I realize that my friend just happens to be at one of the most intense hot-spots of this battle with almost no back-up forces to encourage or assist him.

God brought a text to my mind and I decided to look it up and take it to heart. As usual, the context carries a great deal of important instruction to anyone serious about being a true follower of God's ways and committed to having full allegiance to His side in this warfare. That is the text that is at the beginning of this piece. My responsibility is to identity with my friend as if I was in prison with him. I don't know what all that might entail, but I certainly can sense to a small extent how I might feel if and when I may find myself in a very similar situation. This certainly invokes what is commonly called the golden rule. I need to try to do whatever it is that I would want done for me if I were in his place right now.

My relationship with this man also reminds me of the predicament that God finds Himself in with all of us. As I reviewed God's feelings and frustrations with us as described in the first part of Isaiah 59, I realize that it is always the lies about Him that stand in the way of our being able to relate to Him properly. Because we don't think He understands us, or because we think He is angry with us, or condemns us, or all sorts of other illusions we firmly believe in our hearts, these very assumptions prevent us from allowing Him access to us to bring us healing and reconciliation with Him.

Over the past few years I have begun to understand that there is absolutely no animosity on God's part against any of us. In fact, the cross proves unequivocally that there is no amount of hatred, abuse, shame or rejection that we can heap on God that can make Him stop loving us or even reduce it in the slightest iota. As Paul exclaimed in absolute wonder near the end of Romans 8, nothing can separate us from the love of God that was expressed through that demonstration by Christ Jesus.

It is always and totally the lies that we cling to about God that prevents us from enjoying fellowship with Him and receiving His blessing and protection in our lives. It is always the false assumptions that we believe about how He feels about us that block us from accepting His presence and authority in our experience. The problem of sin is 100% an issue of our attitudes toward God, never His attitudes toward us. Yes, God is very, very angry – but not with us. He is extremely angry at sin, the lies about Him that tear away from His heart the very children that He created to share love with for eternity. And only those who stubbornly refuse to let go of the lies in their minds and hearts and refuse the overwhelming offers of forgiveness, grace and cleansing, will at last be lost for eternity. Because love always respects other's freedoms, God is forced to respect our choices as to whether or not we will allow Him to be our friend and Redeemer.

I have been praying for some time now for a much clearer understanding of the real meaning and purpose of the cross of Jesus Christ. As I wrote these last few paragraphs I sensed that God is using this to open just a little bit more my understanding of what is really going on in this war. My own heart is warmed with sympathy for God's predicament and responds to the passion of His desire for me personally. Last night I received an email from another friend who shared a dream that she had about God's desire for marriage to her. From this symbolic dream she awoke with an intense desire to respond to God's passionate love for her burning vividly in her heart and soul. Though she had known all these things in her head for years, this experience suddenly made it very real in her heart and she trusted us by sharing this dream as part of her desire to embrace what God is wanting to do from her perspective in the body of Christ.

God is marshaling His forces. But the forces that He desires for His army never use the weapons of the enemy. They are being trained to use weapons of heaven's design in the ways that overcome the evil forces of this world through love, service and humility. I ask God to train me in His boot-camp, to prepare me to be an effective agent of transformation, an example of His ability to turn a selfish, fearful, rebellious and confused man into a demonstration of grace, peace and kindness. I trust in His faithfulness to finish the work of training He is doing in me. I invite anyone who has working ears to listen to what the Spirit is trying to say to all who are listening with their heart. Let God expose and sweep away the lies about Him that block us from trusting His heart. Give Him permission to have full access to the heart and we can find the satisfaction and joy that we have craved most deeply all of our lives.