Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Counting it all JOY in 2010

(post originally written January 2, 2010)

But every day it's...
Less like tearing
more like building
Less like captive
more like willing
Less like breakdown
more like surrender.

And in Your hands the pain and hurt
look less like scars
and more like character
Less like a prison a prison
more like my room
Less like a casket
more like a womb
Less like dying
more like transcending

In Your hands the pain and hurt
look less like scars
And more like character.

~ from the song 'Less Like Scars' by Sara Groves

"The joy of the Lord is your strength."
Nehemiah 8:10

How can we, being bought by Blood & drawn to God through His scarlet thread of redemption, not be full of joy?

To my shame I have often found myself full of grief & nearly devoid of joy. Weeping & mourning over the murder of thousands of little infants each year, for 17 years, has taken a toll. I watch them being dismembered & delivered alive into the toilets at 1103 Lucerne Terrace every week. It is fitting to grieve. These poor little babies deserve to be mourned. After all, each of these boys & girls were lovingly designed, created & sustained by the God that I love. We pray, we plead, we offer our holy support to the aborting mothers, we warn, we teach & preach & point them to the One who placed their children in their wombs. We visit the orphans in their affliction. We do our duty & obey the 6th commandment, intervening in Jesus' Name, to keep our innocent neighbors from the violent harm planned & intended against them by their moms & dads. We trust the Lord to be pleased with our diligent labors for His glory & for the good of our neighbors, & yet, we sorrow over the holocaust that goes on in the shadow of a thousand churches in Orlando. Perhaps this is the cause of my deepest sorrow. Before I was a Christian, it didn't suprise me much when people only cared about themselves. After all, 'looking out for number one' was the way of the world. After I was born-again, I experienced a profound shift in my soul & enjoyed the happy company of many brothers & sisters who cared for the needy in New England. There were not many churches or Christians in the north, but the ones we were involved with were full of a desire to love their neighbors. When we came to Orlando for seminary in December of 1991 I assumed that with so many churches & ministries in central Florida there would be a very strong influence of Christianity. I was shocked to see so many porn shops & strip clubs. When I found out that over 10,000 infants were being slaughtered at abortuaries in Orlando annually I was truly dumbfounded. How could there be such rampant sexual immorality, perversion & debauchery when the area was riddled with churches which were full of people? How is it possible that little orphans were systematcally slain in the shadow of so many 'Christian' institutions?

Having spent all these years ministering outside the killing places of Orlando, I have wrestled with the apathy of professing Christians & pastors regarding the shedding of innocent blood. A day at the abortuary does not go by without an immoral aborting mother identifying herself as a Christian. I remembered how slavery was not only tolerated in the south, but defended. The answer to why people who describe themselves as followers of Jesus Christ but live content with an outward form of religion is as plain as the nose on my face. It is simply a matter of SIN. 'Suppressing the knowledge of the truth in unrifhteousness' is exactly how the law of sin & death works. Man's total depravity operates by excusing sin. Religion is just another excuse.

I confess that my heart has been embittered. It is not a pretty picture. But the Lord has been patient with me & my time here in Orlando, amidst a hollow, vacuous religious community, has been His instrument of sanctification to me. Jesus has established me in Him & His truth & helped me to trust & learn from Him. He has shown me the selfish apathy & sin in my own soul. Although churches have not responded to the need for a faithful gospel witness at the killing places, the Lord Himself has sent out laborers to the field of blood. I have enjoyed the most amazing, wonderful, sweet fellowship on the streets with brothers & sisters whom I consider to be the ones of whom the world is not worthy. I love the fellowship of the redeemed & consider it the highest privilege to labor together with the finest men & women in the world. These friends are a source of deep encouragement & consolation to me. I see in them the redeeming work of the Holy Spirit, reminding me of the great saving, sanctifying grace of Jesus Christ. These saints, many who are under tremendous affliction themselves, not only endure, but thrive & continue to pour themselves into gospel outreach for the glory of their Savior & the good of their neighbors. They show me, again & again, what it means to humbly follow the Lord & love others, leaving their cares in the hands of the One they worship. My dear co-laborers are living epistles, known & read of men (& aborting women), who witness to ME while they witness to the perishing. They preach & teach the truth: With God, all things are possible.

This New Year I am seeking for more JOY for the journey. Not a frivolous, carnal joy, but the JOY OF THE LORD. This holy joy is the gift of the King & promised to those who love Him, to strengthen them for service. Although we grieve at the slaughter of innocent babies & lament over the obvious callous disregard for the orphans by the vast majority in the visble church, we are not as those without hope. While we mourn our own weakness & sin, we are to spur one another on to good works & comfort ourselves with the faithfulness of God. Charles Spurgeon said: "It is no mean thing to comfort the Lord's mourners; it is a work specially dear to the Spirit of God, and, therefore, not to be lightly esteemed. Holy sorrow is precious before God, and is no bar to godly joy."

The foundational basis of our joy is the Lord HIMSELF. His radiant goodness, His perfection, His beauty, His grace! Jesus Christ is full of glory!

Another sure source of joy is the knowledge that as a ransomed sinner we have been reconciled, accepted, adopted & made beloved of God by the life blood of His Lamb. How infinitely great of the King to love a worm like me! This should ever be a river of sacred pleasure & an endless abyss of joy, should it not?

An assurance that all of our future is secured & guaranteed by divine goodness should be a great comfort to our souls as well. We can ever sing: 'I know Whom I have believed & am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that Day.' (II Tim 1:12)

To have real & actual communion & fellowship with God through Christ is a continual joy. The God of heaven & earth hears us when we pray! The Savior calls us, saying: "Abide in Me" & by the Spirit He makes the very way for us to obey His command!

Another blessed rivulet of joy is found in the honor of being allowed to serve Jesus. We are given the privilege of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, loving the unlovely, visiting the orphans in their affliction, teaching, preaching, seeking & saving the lost. Doing good work in the power & strength of the Lord provides us a way out of bondage to self & into true JOY. We find Jesus helping & ennabling us to live in deepening self-sacrifice. He girds us up to suffer in humble acquiescience, giving us faith to choose to endure reproach for Christ's sake rather than seek the fleeting favor of men. The Master makes us to glory in tribulation & follow Him into the wilderness. (Spurgeon describes this as 'riding lofty billows nearer to heaven'.) By grace we can count it all pure joy! (James 1:2) Exhilirating joy comes not from circumstances but from dependence upon Christ.

Another benefit of this joy of the Lord is that it fortifies us against temptation. How could we sin when God has been so good & so kind to us? He has given us the strength of His own holy joy to bear us up on the narrow path. He bids us into His presence to commune with Him that He might forgive us our trespasses & sins, sanctifying & empowering us to live holy as we ought to live.

The joy of the Lord is not the bubbling mirth of worldlings. Jesus spoils us for this fallen world & it's pleasures. We are cheered, gladdened, emboldened & made eager to obey Him. This gracious strength leafs to practical results & becomes a witness to all & great praise to our God.

...beloved, we are not left to search for joy; it is brought to our doors by the love of God our Father; joy refined and satisfying, befitting immortal spirits. God has not left us to wander among those unsatisfactory things which mock the chase which they invite; He has given us appetites which carnal things cannot content, and He has provided suitable satisfaction for those appetites; He has stored up at His right hand pleasures for evermore, which even now He reveals by His Spirit to those chosen ones whom He has taught to long for them.
~ Charles Spurgeon

I am praying & working to see a great spiritual awakening in America & beyond in 2010. The joy of the Lord will be my strength. I am asking Jesus for MORE joy in the New Year. While we cry: "Maranatha, Come quickly Lord Jesus!" it is my sincere desire to redeem the time until His soon & coming return. The joy of Christ will be our strength in worship, prayer, service & evangelism. Although we often sow in tears, we will reap in joy, bringing in the sheaves of God & presenting them to the Lord of the Harvest.

I hope you will rejoice with me!

And the singers sang aloud ...
they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced: for God had made them rejoice
with great joy:
the wives ...and the children rejoiced:
so that the joy of Jerusalem
was heard even afar off.
Nehemiah 12:42-43

Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him. According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

*Less Like Scars by Sara Groves

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