Light vs. Dark: Recognizing The Spirit World

I don’t know about you, but the concept of a spiritual world frightens, confuses, delights, overwhelms, and intrigues my heart all at the same time. It’s just a bit too much for my Western-hemisphere brain to comprehend easily, so I’d rather try to explain away, or simply avoid the concept of dark and light forces altogether.

Honestly, it’s easier to be cynical about the whole idea.

“Did Jesus really say that?”

“Are we sure there are still angels and demons? People coming back from the dead?”

Passages like the one found in Matthew 27: 51-53 frighten me and leave me in awe:

“At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.”

It’s the lack of control I have over things that scares me. We fear things we don’t understand easily. Like calculus, for example…I fear calculus. Because I don’t get it. And I fear others beliefs when they don’t align with mine, because I don’t understand them. Dead people coming to life doesn’t exactly make sense to me either. But talk about power! Wow! It gives me goosebumps…

As I read the story of Easter today, I found my heart captivated by Jesus’ heart for us. John 17 has always been one of my favorite chapters of the Bible. He’s about to be arrested, led to ‘trial’ and crucified for me and you, and the other people that would have shouted, “Crucify Him!” on that day. And he’s praying, for us…

Quick sidebar – think about it for a minute – would you not have shouted the same thing? Our natural inclination when our way of life is called into question or we’re called to something greater than ourselves is to pick up arms and defend our pride. And Jesus asks us to turn that internal world upside down, put our pride to death, and allow humility of heart to lead us to relational reconciliation. That’s hard. I’m not a huge fan of hard. Left to my own vices and joining in the mob-mentality. On that Good Friday, I would have shouted, “Crucify him!” – and that breaks my heart. I hate to break it to you, but you would have too. I’m so freaking thankful for grace and a God that loved me before I could love Him.

Okay – back to Jesus praying for us.

He’s about to be arrested. Judas has betrayed him. Peter will deny him. His Father in Heaven will forsake Him for our sake! And he prays. For us! “An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:43-44) He’s sweating blood, anxiety has a temporary hold on his heart, and he prays for us!

I’m not going to quote John 17. Go read it for yourself. But it drives me wild that he thought to pray for you and me while enduring that much stress. What a King!

A spiritual world frightens us. We don’t pray, because it’s been categorized as a relic of past generations. It doesn’t hold any real power. Or so we think.

Prayer is only socially acceptable in our present political and public landscape when tragedy has struck or in remembrance of holidays (i.e. Easter/Christmas). In general, we live in an increasingly agnostic, spiritually dark culture. The Western hemisphere has wandered away from a supernatural reality. Yet our hunger for Heaven and its fulfillment are ever more present as our thirst for contentment drowns us. Prayer is the doorway to Heaven – our direct-line to the “oval office” of His Kingdom – and yet we’ve simply grown apathetic to its presence, reality, and power – and often find that we’ve accepted the culture’s interpretation that spirituality is myth and not power.

My heart’s yearning and my prayer is that we’re proven wrong – that there’s an awakening, first in our hearts and then in our culture. Make America Great Again may have been ruined as Trump’s branding statement, but if we truly want to Make America Great Again, then we have to return to our roots at least a little bit – and pray.

“If God is for us, then who can stand against us?”

The spirit-world is there. Authors like Tolkien and C.S. Lewis bring these things to life with their stories of child-like wonder. They paint fictional worlds that bring to life spiritual realities. The spirit-world is scary, but I have good news – light wins. So I want to stand in the Light.

Jesus will return on a white horse and lead the Kingdom of Light to victory. Think Braveheart. But even more B.A. than that. Satan and his deceivers will be thrown into a lake of fire. And His Kingdom will come, on earth as it is Heaven. (Read Revelation 19 & 20 if you don’t believe me.)

light-vs-dark

Dare to Dream

Jesus always concerned himself with the heart and the depths of a man’s soul, yet rather than follow suit, we tend to focus on tweaking behaviors. Under the guise of a “fixed” exterior, the interior (heart/soul) may lay in ruins, and perhaps no one would ever know.

Because, at our current social state, it would be “better” for his esteemed social “resume” to appear “good”, rather than real. And heaven forbid, his real, just might be broken. Perhaps, for a season, even bad.

It would be interesting to dream of a church and its’ esteemed individuals fueled by a deep love, rather than a rattling fear of not measuring up to the esteemed expectations of family/friends/pastors – to be driven by a real relationship with the Cross.

I simply dare to dream that perhaps our attitudes toward church – perhaps our uptight nature toward dealing with one another’s quirks, faults, and brokenness just might be faulty. I cannot see how keeping people’s questions at bay is of help, or how keeping “the worldly” out of our lives could be of any value. Did not Jesus, Himself, hang out, almost exclusively (aside from his disciples) with the downtrodden and uncertain – the unabashedly sinful? Even more so, he almost taunted the Pharisees for their esteemed “perfection” – they had an attitude that if everything on the outside was clean and in good condition, then they were good. Yet, Jesus still points to their hearts…

Let’s say, for example, that one is struggling with doubts about the Sovereignty of God. Presently, due to the social pressures and expectations of others, it would be much easier for him to remain quiet and to pretend that he was not struggling. But wouldn’t it be healthier not only for that individual, but also for the body (Church) as a whole, to work through those questions, together?

But then the Attitude of Answers come into play. You, yourself, have never struggled with “doubts about Sovereignty”, so you have all of the illustrations, references, and words to assist this “lost” man. At the heart of you desire to help, is it that you really esteem the best-interests of the confused man, or is it that you’ve longed for a position of authority over another? I can honestly answer that I’ve been on both sides of the spectrum – the latter obviously being unhealthy and often hurtful for both parties involved.

It would simply be interesting to go into a deep conversation with another without the attitude of “who will win?” Perhaps it would be better for us to admit that we do not always have the answers. Or that, even if/when we do, might it just be better to walk alongside another as they wrestle – rather than pressing, pulling, and torquing their heart to match out predispositions?

What a joyous and connecting conversation it might be if we allowed ourselves a level playing-field, without the ideal that someone is an outsider (i.e. I visit with a prostitute and strike up a conversation – why can I not converse as their equal as opposed to their superior?). Imagine the dramatically different friendships we might have.

“Flame” (my previous post/poem) was my heart’s cry for this attitude of transparency and realness among the Church, and even across the (“worldly”) community as a whole.

“I’ve hungered for this honesty,
The honest me.
Better to admit your doubt,
Than to fake it out.
Better to share your hurt and uncertainty,
Than to feign joy and assurance – see?”

So, I dare to dream of a body of believers that wrestle together – that dare to share their faults without shaking in fear of the condemnation that may come their way. I dare to wonder what it might be like if I’d come to the Word out of a desire for hope and love, rather than in submission due to fear/anxiety.

What if someone said, “Hey guys, I haven’t really been able to see the Lord working in my life lately. It feels like my prayers aren’t being heard.” – and the Church’s response was, “Tell us more – I think I’ve been through that before as well.” It would seem to me, to be a much more welcoming, even helpful, approach than to simply dig deep into the purse of verse-memorization and hyper-spiritual sentiments.

This is what I’m wrestling through – thanks for learning with me. Will you also dare to dream?

dream

Dear Church

Dear Church,

There is a tendency to either embrace freedom, charisma, and the supernatural, or to love the law (Scripture) and steer clear of anything not easily explainable. I’ve ventured on both sides of the path; falling madly in love with Scripture, holding to its’ every law, in order to “earn” my salvation (impossible, by the way); experiencing the power of the Spirit and relishing in a spirit-of-freedom. Both sides have their pros and cons, but I think the issue is that there are sides. The Spirit and the Word are meant to work together, in harmony.

To my conservative friends, do you really want to continue living without experiencing the fullness of the Holy Spirit that is available to you? Would you truly prefer to live in a world void of miracles, prophetic-guidance, and angels that protect you from demonic-affairs? Read about the church in Acts, study original, first-hand accounts of church-leaders during periods of reformation/revival, and you will see that they all point to an element of the supernatural, no matter how terrifying or impossible that may currently seem.

To my charismatic friends, it is important for you to remember that all Scripture is useful for teaching, rebuking, and training in discipline. Many of you are avoiding its’ reality. Perhaps you were miraculously saved, rescued from demonic oppression, and your testimony speaks volumes, but you, my dear friend, are no better than the next man; you are still a single missed step from falling, flat on your face.

So, legalistic or rebellious in nature, we all need Jesus, desperately. We all need the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And, we could all use a heavy dose of humility, as we read Scripture and realize our need for a Savior. Before flagrantly disagreeing with your other Christian friends (like myself), I encourage you to pray and ask the LORD to open your eyes to whatever it is He may want to teach you in this season of ministry.

Finally, friends, I want to encourage you to continue pressing forward in the faith, despite any and all obstacles, for the Kingdom is near, and Christ is coming back. Rejoice, despite trials. Love, despite flaws. Sing, despite heartbreak. Fight passionately, despite the natural tendency toward apathy. Allow shame no stronghold in your heart and rid yourselves of guilt through repentance and submitting to the LORD. And, for the love of the world, pray, a lot more.

Walking With You,

Justin

Redeemed

Ashes to ashes

Dust to dust

Soul that thrashes

Heart that rusts

Sin drips in

Rips me apart

Will darkness win?

Will Christ depart?

Shall I break,

Evil will applaud.

All my mistakes

Reveal my façade.

 

Small compromises

Satan’s Enterprises

Business of lying

Knows I’m dying

Doesn’t care I’m buying’

Into fake “styling”

Cooked up and fryin’

My heart, deprivin’

Death now driving.

 

Oh, and I let it!

Chips out and betted

Casino of sensuality embedded

Forgot truth, barely read it.

 

Scripture gone, no cornerstone

Spirit aloft, dryer bones.

 

Unquenched thirst

Chronic hurt

Doctor examined

But abandoned…

At least I thought…

Once again, distraught.

 

O the drama of hearts:

Alive, dead, apart,

Shaken, buried, alarmed,

Still, rattled, charmed.

 

Romantic involvement,

Relational evolvement.

 

Pursuer, now pursued

By the true Groom.

Tried to seek and peruse

Other affections never bloom.

Mighty hands hold

My heart unfolds.

He’s real Love, I’m told.

 

Heart beats quicker

Feelings are thicker.

 

Shame comes

Pride runs

Broken crumbs

Tear drums

 

Washed cheeks,

I’m weak.

 

Love affair,

My fare.

 

Imagine my surprise

And evil’s demise

When grace shined

And Christ dined

With His Bride, unfaithful

But He remained faithful.

 

Affectionate eyes,

Gentle hands,

Removed lies,

Helped me stand.

 

Renewed, not abandoned.

Deep love; enchanted.

 

Restlessness now resting,

Surrender; stopped wrestling.

 

Refreshing waters flow

Spirit breathes, I grow.

 

Planted in His streams,

Grateful He redeems.