Saturday, December 15, 2018

The Duck and the Fox

“Lest…one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow”—2 Corinthians 2:7
August 5, 2009: For many days now, a mother duck has been laying on her eggs just to the left of my front door in the underbrush beneath some bushes.  While I slept, my housemate was out doing his taxi duties into the wee hours of the morning.  After his shift, he drove home, parked, and remained in his car listening to the radio as someone read from the Bible.  As he listened, he suddenly noticed a ruckus in the front yard.  First he discerned the outline of a duck—and only after looking more intently—did he also see the culprit, a fox!  He stepped out of the cab and shewed the creatures away; the fox ran off and the duck lay there as if dead.  After a few minutes, the duck got up and slowly waddled off, dazed and confused.  It took off down the road, around the corner, and eventually—I imagine—back into one of the many ponds or lakes nearby.  Before my housemate went into the house he checked up on our mother duck.  His suspicion was confirmed!  The duck involved in that open yard ruckus was her.  There—surrounded by many feathers—was a bunch of white eggs left unattended; with the mother gone, the potential ducklings were sure to perish.  All was lost!  And the irony is, even the fox failed to secure a meal out of this. 
After my housemate told me this story, I immediately thought of that scripture verse in the Song of Solomon that spoke of little foxes spoiling the vine.  I mentioned this to him.  He was amazed!  Incredibly, the radio broadcaster was reading from Song of Solomon and read that EXACT verse EXACTLY when the incident occurred!  Something transcendent was being said here!  After my housemate went to bed, I continued to meditate and ponder the incident.  While thus engaged—and whilst much sorrow afflicted my heart from another source—I got a cup of coffee and reached for a book from my library.  The book I grabbed was Jesse Penn-Lewis’ “Thy Hidden Ones,” a book about—you guessed it—the Song of Solomon!  It was amazingly illuminating and pertinent to both the aforementioned incident and the feelings of my heart at the time.
Here is some of what Penn-Lewis wrote: 
“‘Oh my dove that art in the clefts of the rock…Let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely’—(SOS 2:14).    
“Hitherto she has known him as her INDWELLING KING, she has had glimpses of the cross, and has agreed to follow him in the pathway of the cross; but she has not yet fully apprehended her position as buried with him by baptism into his death, and therefore separated from herself, and from all the old life and its claims.
“The well-beloved reminds the soul of her place in the Cleft of the Rock, because he can recognize her as his betrothed one nowhere else.
“The bride for the first Adam was taken out of his side during his sleep; made of his own nature and presented to him by her Creator—a marvelous foreshadowing of the mystery of Christ and his Church!
“‘Take us the foxes, THE LITTLE FOXES THAT SPOIL THE VINEYARDS…My beloved is mine, and I am his; he feedeth…among the lilies’—(SOS 2:15-16). 
“She hears the well-beloved’s voice, sees his attitude, and hearkens to his CALL TO ARISE…TO FORGET THE THINGS THAT ARE BEHIND.  She listens to his message about the cross, to his call TO TURN HER FACE TOWARD HIM, BUT—SHE DOES NOT UNDERSTAND!  She is pre-occupied.  She evidently has her eyes upon the vine…its promise of fruit…the keeping of her vineyard…she has been too much engrossed in active service, and had NEGLECTED HER OWN VINEYARD.  Now she goes to the other extreme, and is SO OCCUPIED WITH HER VINEYARD as not to be able to understand her beloved’s call.
“It is not enough for thee to rest upon thine old experience, and comfort thyself that thy beloved is thine, or that he is still in thy heart feeding upon the lilies of his own planting within thee.  Thou wilt have to learn that thou must PRESS ON, and walk in his will in sensitive obedience, if thou art to KNOW the Lord.”
Some of the highlighted words and phrases are mine and some were hers—but by accentuating these particular truths—we come to realize something wonderful.  The name of my housemate in this story about the Duck and the Fox is Christopher, which in Greek means, “BEARING CHRIST INSIDE.” Penn-Lewis’ use of the phrase “INDWELLING KING” and the context in which she used it now seems even more prophetic and pertinent.  She used this phrase as an intermediate position between seeing and actualizing, one wherein the bride knows her Lord—having an internal sense of him—but not as yet FULLY discerning her exact and honored placement at his side.  It was Christopher that shewed the little fox away and symbolically the one still tending to the vineyard.  As I slept, overcome by much sorrow—and having made all my bed in tears—a part of me was attempting to salvage a shred of hope concerning my vineyard or fruitfulness.  But just as Christ upbraided his disciples for sleeping the sleep of sorrow when vigilant prayer was needed to overcome the impending hour of testing, so he was telling me to “AWAKE MY BRIDE!”  As accentuated earlier, we are “CALLED TO ARISE…TO FORGET THE THINGS THAT ARE BEHIND,” and to “PRESS ON” to “KNOW” the Lord.
After I absorbed Penn-Lewis’ words and the prophetic revelation derived from them, I recalled a symbolic play entitled, “The Wild Duck,” by Henrik Ibsen.  The core message—“Deprive the average human being of his life-lie, and you rob him of his happiness”—is a line from the play.  The mother duck technically survived the fox, but her future potential—represented by her eggs—was lost.  I felt the Lord spoke to me about impending doom if I didn’t awake and fight the good fight of faith.  To expose my life-lie is to extinguish present and carnal happiness for the possibility of future and permanent happiness.
“The Wild Duck” opens with the grandfather shooting and injuring a wild duck; his dog retrieved it at the bottom of a pond before it drowned.  Then a series of revelations about past indiscretions begins to unravel the entire family.  Here is an excerpt from a summary of that play—written by someone else (so to give credit where credit is due)—but unfortunately I’ve lost the name and source:
“He [Gregers] meddles in the affairs of a strange family, producing disastrous results. Figuratively speaking, he lives in a house whose closets are full of skeletons. Over the course of the play the many secrets that lie behind the Ekdals' apparently happy home are revealed to Gregers, who insists on pursuing the absolute truth, or the ‘Summons of the Ideal.’ This family has achieved a tolerable modus vivendi by ignoring the skeletons (among the secrets: Gregers’ father impregnated his servant Gina then married her off to Hjalmar to legitimize the child, and Hjalmar's father has been disgraced and imprisoned for a crime the elder Werle committed.) and by permitting each member to live in a dreamworld of his own—the feckless father believing himself to be a great inventor, the grandfather dwelling on the past when he was a mighty sportsman, and little Hedvig, the child, centering her emotional life around an attic where a wounded wild duck leads a crippled existence in a make-believe forest ... To the idealist all this appears intolerable. To him as to other admirers of Ibsen it must seem that the whole family is leading a life ‘based on a lie;’ all sorts of evils are ‘growing in the dark.’  The remedy is obviously to face facts, to speak frankly, to let in the light. However, in this play the revelation of the truth is not a happy event because it rips up the foundation of the Ekdal family. When the skeletons are brought out of the closet, the whole dreamworld collapses; the weak husband thinks it is his duty to leave his wife, and the little girl, after trying to sacrifice her precious duck, shoots herself with the same gun.”
This poignant play is best described by the symbolism that was the wild duck; the duck’s behavior when first shot by the grandfather captures the essence of the mood and sentiment of the play.  Speaking of the wild duck, Ibsen wrote: “She did that, she always does that ... wild ducks do.  Go plunging right to the bottom ... as deep as they can get ... hold on with their beaks to the weeds and stuff ... all other mess they find down there.  Then they never come up again.”  Do enough damage to a wild duck and it will cling to the last vestiges of grief; rattle it enough and it will leave off all purpose.  The dreamworld of the Ekdal family was an entrenched delusion that defined them to such a degree that when it was destroyed by the light of reality, they never recovered.  Likewise—and as illustrated by the mother duck in the fox/duck incident—I am in danger of merely surviving a tradgedy, not thriving in its aftermath.
At the backdrop of this violent encounter between the duck and the fox (and Penn-Lewis’ and Ibsen’s input) was myself nearing both a spiritual breakthrough and a material breakdown.  Attempting to reach a prophesied level of spiritual maturity and financial prosperity and fighting back enormous reservoirs of sorrow over natural desires unrealized, I found myself swinging alternately to the lowest depths and the highest heights (normally the very signs of immaturity), however, my actual position or equilibrium (centered and sure) was only being temporarily disturbed.  God is moving on my behalf, and many strange things are presently happening that I believe will speak more clearly in due time.  I recently resigned from a good paying job during this weakening economy to reestablish a Real Estate career that I had previously thrown off.
About five years ago (2004) I became lovesick over a young woman that did not return my love; this unrequited love wounded me beyond a measure I could overcome.  I subsequently pined away, losing all desire for any success in any endeavor.  Without heart, without the mainspring of motivation or ambition, I went along listlessly for more than a year.  Sadly, I often imbibed, got drunk, listened to sappy love songs and bemoaned what seemed to me to be an irredeemable situation.  Consequently, I stopped working diligently and consistently; I ran up all my credit cards.  I just couldn’t motivate myself to do even simple tasks.  But eventually God broke through this dark cloud that enveloped my heart and set me back on the right path.  The object of my desire married another—and when I accepted that fact—the spell was broken.  I even reaped such a wealth of sentiment and life from the dead that I became a ministry to others that were also overmuch sorrowful.  Then it happened again!  I am still in the throes of it now (2009); another woman has caught my attention.  Without elaboration, this ended the same way—she married another!  Now—(2018)—I am past these heart wrenching unrequited loves.  I now accept the fact that each of these women represented an idol—a giant in the land of my heart—that God had to confront me about in order to set me free.  I was under a spell, a delusion, a life-lie!  As Ibsen said, “Deprive the average human being of his life-lie, and you rob him of his happiness.”  
Now that the backdrop has been painted, here are the recent (2009 timeframe) events and occurrences that tie in with this initial fox/duck story.  I have been waiting on God to jumpstart me, my ministry and my vocation; I have been pleading with Him to jumpstart me because I am still a bit disheartened.  I want to be motivated, work hard and obey His voice instantly; in practice, however, it has been exceedingly difficult to find my lost mojo. To compound the issue, or to exacerbate my internal angst, the second woman—though married as I explained—wants to be my friend and coworker.
She has heard my dreams and seen the desires of my heart—she has fed off me personally, ministerially and professionally—and she doesn’t want that to stop; of course, I never wanted it to stop either.  But it is too dangerous for me to work and play close to someone I have feelings for.  I was willing to lay down my life and support us both in a tremendous joint venture.  I cannot understand how she can dream about us together—and she literally felt an electrical shock when I first said I loved her—and then dismiss me for someone not walking with God and obviously not right for her.  She also had the temerity to claim she had obeyed God by doing certain things, one of which was marrying someone I had prophetically told her not to (yes, “The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29) ... so in spite of my wallowing listless condition, the prophetic office I was called to still functioned).
Because I knew she was mine (in my delusional mind), I kept myself at a distance, allowing love and God to prevail (though delusional in reference to her, I still practiced a patience born of God; I retained some spiritual maturity).  I made sure I did not speak from what I knew could be construed as an ulterior motive. Apparently she deluded herself by thinking that I only prophesied at a 90%/10% accuracy rate; this allowed her to rationalize away the Word of the Lord out of my mouth (and gave her the license to pick and choose what was accurate or not—not by the timbre of the word or by weighing if it had a divine origin or not—but by her own 90%/10% artificial construct of interpretation and deception that she had erected within her own mind for her own benefit).  Sadly to say, she failed the test, failed me and failed God.  Of course, I’m the REAL failure here!  Remember, these are merely the rantings of a delusional heart in love with his idol. 
And I keep failing along this line; I keep placing a demand on God for a wife before success in the field (business), which is not scriptural (but seemingly impossible for me to surmount its delusional draw).  I can see me working hard for us, but not for me; I want to work hard for God in response to sheer obedience, but I can hardly know what that means (when all motivation has been cut out of my heart).  Nonetheless, she did not choose me—that is a fact—even though there was always such a transmission of life between us.  I have consequently been in much prayer and anguish over this; I love her mightily, more than a brother loves a sister.  Can I work with her day after day and not be distracted?  Can I play with fire and not be burned?  Our God is a Consuming Fire; is this how He relates to flesh and blood?  Is this fiery trial to test me ever going to cease?
What does all this have to do with the fox and the duck incident?  Allow me some latitude and an answer—I believe—will emerge. 
Back to work and reality!  I’m a Real Estate agent, and just days after the duck and fox incident, I got a listing out of nowhere.  The address of the listing—if you can believe it—is 411 DUCK HUNTER Ct!  Doubtless, this is a prophetic demonstration; it must be!  The fox which chewed on that roosting duck outside my personal address is thick with meaning and dripping with irony.  I am still trying to put my mind around it—to interpret the incident prophetically and properly.  This is just too coincidental to not have divine meaning.  Here are some of my initial and miscellaneous thoughts about this DUCK HUNTER address: 411 used to be the directory number, the number you called to find other numbers (a number that placed all other numbers at its disposal).  Also, 4 is the world/city number (the number of God’s creative works), and 11 is the number for judgment and disorder.  Thus, the sound of a trumpet—signifying a verdict (judgment) is reached—and is being heard by all.  Its message is to converge at the universal address of material completeness to await sentencing.  Every number is up!  Every number dialed!  Every residence is summoned to a higher vision!  Natural sight is filled up; God’s material creation is near the end of its usefulness.  It is now the hour for true spirituality.  A clarion sound is made throughout the city, and at my very door—a prophetic demonstration was made—a final battle of great import played out in dramatic fashion.    
Being that this is the first listing under my new company—a company named after my personal name—is telling, and knowing I am on the verge of either a breakthrough or breakdown, I cannot allow the little foxes (those two giant idols ... those two women who stole my heart) to spoil the vine (of my destiny).  A duck, according to an interpretation found online, “denotes a person of many resources.”  I must find those resources now!  A famous painter of the 1600’s was named Jacob Duck; he painted soldiers, taverns and used symbolism to convey morality.  I was a soldier, frequented many taverns, and I am now trying to convey morality.  Jacob, of course, was the supplanter—the deceiver—who wrestled with God and was renamed Israel, a prince with God, and the father of the children that eventually entered the Promised Land.  I too must wrestle and overcome/be overcome by God if I am to birth all of my spiritual potential.  I have decided to forsake the idols of my heart in order to worship the Lord in singleness of devotion—with or without a limp!
On August 5, 2009—the day I wrote the bulk of this article—David Wilkerson sent me his Daily Devotional entitled “GO AHEAD AND CRY!”  Here is some of it:   
“When you hurt the worst, go to your secret prayer closet and weep out all your bitterness. Jesus wept. Peter carried with him the hurt of denying the very Son of God and he wept bitterly! He walked alone on the mountains, weeping in sorrow. Those bitter tears worked a sweet miracle in him and he came back to shake the kingdom of Satan.  Years ago a woman who had endured a mastectomy wrote a book entitled ‘First You Cry.’ How true! Recently I talked with a friend who was just informed he had terminal cancer. ‘The first thing you do,’ he said, ‘is cry until there are no more tears left. Then you begin to move closer to Jesus, until you know his arms are holding you tight.’  Jesus never looks away from a crying heart. He said, ‘A broken heart will I not despise’ (see Psalm 51:17). Not once will the Lord say, ‘Get hold of yourself! Stand up and take your medicine! Grit your teeth and dry your tears.’ No! Jesus bottles every tear in his eternal container.  Do you hurt? Then go ahead and cry. And keep on crying until the tears stop flowing. But let those tears originate only from hurt, not from unbelief or self-pity.”
Also on August 5, 2009, Sandi Freed posted an article online entitled “It's time for a violent turn toward God!”  Here it some excerpts from it (with an occasional insertion of mine, numbered):
Freed: “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision” (Joel 3:14).  Believers, we are in a season which I refer to as a ‘Valley of Decision’ ... we ... need a violent turn in the right direction ... we have decisions to make. There is a turning, a releasing of the old and a new narrow path for us ... We simply have to choose to turn away from what is old, familiar and hindering us from walking forward in victory ... God is releasing a sound which we need to heed.  HE WILL TURN OUR SORROW INTO LAUGHTER AND JOY.  When studying the ‘multitudes in the valley’ the word ‘multitude’ actually translates as ‘abundance,’ but it is connected to a noise being made and a rumbling sound. And, even more interesting is that the Hebrew word ‘multitudes’ is rooted in the words ‘to make an uproar, tumult, cry out, to disturb, destroy, crush, and (be) troubled and (to vex).’ In other words, it is not simply a multitude of people in a valley making a decision; it is also a multitude of sounds being made while making the decision.  I believe the enemy has a sound—his sounds are destructive, non-productive and are in the form of lies and hope deferred.”
Insertion #1: Deep calling to deep is the sound of the sea of God corresponding to the sound of the sea in us; His nature as a sonar and an emission of sound waves in water reaching out to those who have the same nature, thus the same appetite and desire for communication on the level of depth and intimacy. His voice is, therefore, always a test; like at Meribah, which has several meanings, God weighs our hearts in measure of discernment and obedience.  One meaning, “waters of contradiction” seems the most illuminating; other meanings, “waters of strife” or “chiding” only speak of different voices with different opinions, but the essence is this lack of unity or “contradiction.”  In other words, the chiding or strife simply arises out of voicing contradictory viewpoints.  God tests us here; His sheep hear His voice—will we?  His sheep parses the chatter and identifies His true voice from so much bleating.  Like as God tested Gideon’s army, incrementally whittling away those called but not chosen, so He is ever testing the mettle of His people, skimming away the dross of unbelief and removing the chaff of self-reliance; this is done in the caldron of contradicting interpretations, ideologies and theologies.  We can ill afford to be foolish; we must know the will of the Lord.  Too many voices cause confusion and freezes initiative.  We must KNOW His voice!  It is our responsibility alone to have ears to hear and eyes to see; a preconditioning and predisposition toward truth has already been implanted within every human heart.  We must overcome the noise—the clamoring elements—that try so desperately to distract us from our singleness of purpose with God. 
Freed: “BELIEVERS, IT IS CROSSING OVER TIME AND WE ARE CHALLENGED TO MOVE FORWARD, BUT THE ENEMY DESIRES TO OPPOSE US AT EVERY TURN. WE MUST DECIDE TO MAKE A VIOLENT TURN. TURN TOWARD GOD WITH A VIOLENT WAR CRY AGAINST OUR ENEMY! THE VIOLENT WILL TAKE THE FUTURE BY FORCE ... Daniel saw the saints of God being worn down by an antichrist system; however, because of the Blood of Christ, victory was given to the saints of God! Hallelujah!  Know that when making decisions in this season, there is an abundance of disturbance from the enemy. If not careful, we will murmur and complain rather than remain focused on God's Word. The Hebrew root word for ‘multitudes’ is ‘hamown’ or ‘hamon.’ This is really close to the name ‘Haman,’ the Amalekite, who set out to destroy Esther and an entire Jewish nation ... ESTHER WAS CHALLENGED WITH A DEATH STRUCTURE. SHE COULD HAVE CHOSEN TO RUN IN FEAR, YET SHE REMAINED STRONG IN HER DECISIONS TO RISK ALL AND TRUST GOD.”
Insertion#2: Haman means “solitary” or “alone” and the close tie to the meaning of “multitudes” is very significant; remember, the nations are but a drop in the bucket to God, and we are no more than a vapor or a shadow past!  Amalekites are those “who lick up the dust” or “exhaust” the Lord’s people; they represent carnality (flesh which never ceases to war against our spirits).  Though our Lord was tender toward the multitudes in his days upon the earth, he said they only came for the perishable food.  Carnality will eventually destroy us; at a minimum, it will rob us of our destiny.  We must fast and pray and breakthrough in this final push towards our new day and the actualization of our destiny.
Freed: “In Job 1:8-11, 2:3-5, he [Satan] accused Job of apostasy (falling away from God). He sent many demonic attacks against Job and the Lord used it as a test. I believe Job may have considered it a valley also. I know that there are times when I am being falsely accused by the enemy; it feels as if I am in a deep, deep valley of despair ... NUMEROUS OTHERS THROUGHOUT THE BIBLE HAVE OVERCOME THE ACCUSER WHO ATTEMPTS TO SEDUCE US INTO RELINQUISHING OUR ASSIGNMENTS. Satan wants us to ‘come down from the wall.’ He will say things like, ‘Who do you think you are, building that church? Why do you feel God would ever use someone like you to preach the Gospel?’ or ‘You're not worthy to be used by God.’  How did ... others press through their trials and persecutions? I believe it was a ‘VIOLENT TURNING,’ a turning in such a way as to ‘focus’ on only what God says concerning our lives, our families, our finances ... everything! ... I must turn away from old thoughts, previous patterns of thinking, religious mindsets as I make a radical, violent turn to Father God, His truth and His faithfulness.  This is a season that the violent rise up with radical warfare and take the Kingdom by force. And, our mindsets concerning the Kingdom principles need to turn in a violent way toward the truths of Christ Jesus!  WE CANNOT MAKE RADICAL, VIOLENT TURNS AND KEEP LOOKING OVER OUR SHOULDERS TO THE PAST. NOR CAN WE ALLOW OUR PAST TO INFLUENCE OUR FUTURE.”
I would love to water down some of the suggestions made by both David Wilkerson and Sandie Freed or even from the Duck/Fox debacle and Henrik Ibsen’s play about the Wild Duck.  Because no matter how you slice it, to cry until you can cry no more is to leave off something you deeply love and can hardly let go of; and a violent turning of the mind and attitude is simply a painful and thoroughgoing repentance.  And our Duck/Fox war is about leaving off the good for the best—a repentance not of evil per se, but of yesterday (which has its own pain)—and a Wild Duck which makes mountains out of molehills and flesh wounds into spiritual brokenness (exacerbating and magnifying pain out of all proportion to its real magnitude).  Such are the experiences of the average man; remember, “Deprive the average human being of his life-lie, and you rob him of his happiness.”  I must therefore transcend the average man!  Paul speaks of Christians not walking as mere men, and we must find a way to overcome our “life-lie;” mine that always looks to a woman to give me support and strength to accomplish my purpose before God.  The duck survived the fox and the little girl’s gun, but at an enormous price.  Injured and delusional, the wild duck lives on; injured and bereft of her children, the mother duck also lives on—both ducks suffering enormous and irredeemable losses.  But I must remove myself from the carnage, from the scene of so much incessant and terrible sorrow.  I cannot go on licking my wounds and bewailing my losses forever; I have had enough of sorrow!   God promised me brighter and brighter days ahead, but I guess I had more life-lies than I initially realized.   Nevertheless, I have decided to obey God and to trust him for those brighter days ahead regardless of what my eyes tell me.  Violently I turn to you O’ my God!
Another amazing coincidence!  And yes, on our same christened date: August 5, 2009!  Oswald Chambers, in his devotional for this date, said:
“God called Jesus Christ to what seemed unmitigated disaster. Jesus Christ called His disciples to see Him put to death; He led every one of them to the place where their hearts were broken. Jesus Christ’s life was an absolute failure from every standpoint but God’s. But what seemed failure from man’s standpoint was a tremendous triumph from God’s, because God’s purpose is never man’s purpose ... There comes the baffling call of God in our lives also ... The things that happen do not happen by chance, they happen entirely in the decree of God. God is working out His purposes ... If we are in communion with God and recognize that He is taking us into His purposes, we shall no longer try to find out what His purposes are. As we go on in the Christian life it gets simpler, because we are less inclined to say—‘Now why did God allow this and that?’ Behind the whole thing lies the compelling of God. ‘There’s a divinity that shapes our ends.’”
Does the fox have you down and out right in your own front yard in front of God and everybody?  Is it obvious to yourself and others that you are crippled and undone; that your wings are broken (you cannot fly), purposes undone (so you have left off sitting on your eggs of future promise realization) and that you are now waddling down the wrong road (reeling in pain, disoriented and discombobulated) to find an oasis—any little reprieve from all the harsh realities of this suffering life—while you await a permanent solution, a pond or natural habitat to drown yourself in a never-ending pity bath?  Well, as vivid as our imagination might be in this horrible picture of doom and gloom, let our reality be clarified by God showing up and setting us free from our captivities—those vain imaginations (life-lies) that defined us for too long.  When God turns back our captivity we will be LIKE them that dream (see Psalm 126); dreamers dream of better and future days and they actually experience them—foretaste them, so to speak—while yet in delusion.  But our supposed delusional state is itself a delusion; when God looks down, has compassion, and then decides to make our dreams come true—in spite of all the enemies and naysayers—we will be justified.  In Christ Jesus, this is exactly what God does!  He promises to wipe away every tear, but only after he vouchsafes them in a jar and rewards those who sow them with a wonderful harvest of joy.  So, go ahead and cry today; tomorrow we laugh.  Today the lion eats the lamb and the fox the duck, but tomorrow they lie down together in peace.  


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Sobs of Sorrows to Tearless Joy

“Sorrow is better than laughter; for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made glad” (Ecclesiastes 7:3).
On my road to recovery—from a slavish ruling Adamic nature to a soul gently governed by the divine nature of Christ—I have sobbed many tears of sorrow, been corrected much, and chastised often. During the last stages of my spiritual adolescence—when I, like many teenagers in the natural, felt ugly, awkward and hopeless of ever maturing—I wrote a long and rambling piece I entitled, “Overcoming Overmuch Sorrow.” In it, I bemoaned some deep and personal shortcomings, and despaired of ever overcoming them; in reality, it was hardly more than a pity party in writing.
I ended that article in as positive a note as I could muster at the time. But after a few years, God brought me out to a large, well-lit and joyful place. Consequently, the Lord prompted me to add one additional paragraph to it. I wrote:
“My hope is no longer deferred! All external circumstantial evidence to the contrary—my physical health has never been worse, I have no wife beside me, and a bleak financial outlook—God has brought me out to a large place, a Promised Land place flowing with milk and honey, a place of great joy. I am walking on water! I am walking on a crystal sea comprised of all the sobbed tears of my painfully extruded myrrh which hollowed out my heart and opened me up to the fullness of Christ within; a myrrh which began to bloom in the flames of sorrow, but which is now fully flowered as a molten sheen of purified glass, a solid and wave-less emotional-state-of-being-pavement upon which I now live out a joy more permanent than the carnal vagaries of sentimental happiness. My golden years look bright, purified to a translucency so clear as to make my reflection clean, sharp, and Christ-like. Now I understand, O’ my precious Lord, why I was afflicted!”
But before I punctuated my article with this happy ending, I ended the article quoting Oswald Chambers. He said that “God called Jesus Christ to what seemed unmitigated disaster. Jesus Christ called His disciples to see Him put to death; He led every one of them to the place where their hearts were broken. Jesus Christ’s life was an absolute failure from every standpoint but God’s. But what seemed failure from man’s standpoint was a tremendous triumph from God’s, because God’s purpose is never man’s purpose.”
This “unmitigated disaster” which Jesus seemed to come to, is of course along the lines of natural thinking. It is only natural that the animal aspect of our being fight to save itself, but God’s purpose is to reconstitute us along a supernatural line. In order to reach that purpose, we must die outwardly whilst daily coming to life inwardly. Until our mortal bodies resurrect and become immortal bodies, we sew SOBS OF SORROW until TEARLESS JOY is realized. “Though the outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). The devolving nature of our bodies is an evil thing left merely to itself; and it involves overmuch sorrow. But the evolving nature of Christ in our hearts is a good thing left merely to God; and it involves overmuch joy.
But before we entered into his sufferings, he entered into ours. Jesus—“despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3)—nonetheless endured this disfigurement of sin and shame for our sakes in order to reach joy inexpressible and full of glory for everyone “that believeth.” Because Jesus is innately an endless life, it is impossible for his body to decompose. He was therefore the first of many brethren to model immortal flesh. Death is disgraceful and painful beyond natural recovery, but “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
It is easy to think we live our best lives now; it is preached incessantly from sacred and secular pulpits alike. But that is delusion. The truth is that paradise and heaven are where joy is inexpressible and perpetually present; in pilgrim attire—as we pass through this evil context known as fallen earth—we rejoice by faith and eat the fruit of joy by supernaturally encountering the deposit of the Holy Spirit guaranteeing a future experience of fullness. Our capacity for everlasting joy therefore increases in direct proportion to the sorrow we experience and carry here on earth. We scale the heights of joy only to the degree we plumb the depths of sorrow. Jesus, a man of sorrows, knew that even transitory crucifixion is “light momentary affliction” compared to eternal joy. “For he himself endured a cross and thought nothing of its shame because of the joy he knew would follow his suffering” (Hebrews 12:2).
An example of joy emerging from sorrow is seen in Solomon’s wisdom; first he said, “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning of it” (Ecclesiastes 7:8). Then, “If a man should live many years, let him rejoice in them all; yet let him [seriously] remember the days of darkness, for they will be many. All that comes is vanity (emptiness, falsity, vainglory, and futility)! ... [Also] remove [the lusts that end in] sorrow and vexation from your heart and mind and put away evil from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity [transitory, idle, empty, and devoid of truth]” (Ecclesiastes 11:8, 10). Indeed—“the beginning of it—“youth and the dawn of life are vanity.” Man is irredeemable within his first Adam caste; “sorrow and vexation” of “heart and mind” is all there is to experience there. “For what does a man get from all his labor and from the striving and sorrow of his heart with which he labors under [this present] sun? For all his days his work is painful and sorrowful; even at night his mind does not rest” (Ecclesiastes 2:22-23). Joy—which is “the end of a thing”—must therefore come in the morning of a new day and a new life!
The greatly multiplied grief and pain of childbirth for woman and the sweat and toil of man to produce food from insipid soil is cursed Adam in a woeful state of irredeemable sorrow. Endless life and joy can only be realized after death (the last enemy) is vanquished. Resurrection is now Adam’s only hope! In support of these thoughts, let us vest in the afterlife rather than this life. In closing, I wish to highlight Henry Ward Beecher’s comments concerning this verse of scripture: “And there was Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulcher” (Matt. 27:61):
“How strangely stupid is grief. It neither learns nor knows nor wishes to learn or know. When the sorrowing sisters sat over against the door of God’s sepulcher, did they see the two thousand years that have passed triumphing away? Did they see anything but this: ‘Our Christ is gone!’ Your Christ and my Christ came from their loss; myriad mourning hearts have had resurrection in the midst of their grief; and yet the sorrowing watchers looked at the seed-form of this result, and saw nothing. What they regarded as the end of life was the very preparation for coronation; for Christ was silent that He might live again in tenfold power. They saw it not. They mourned, they wept, and went away, and came again, driven by their hearts to the sepulcher. Still it was a sepulcher, unprophetic, voiceless, lusterless. So with us. Every man sits over against the sepulcher in his garden, in the first instance, and says, ‘This woe is irremediable. I see no benefit in it. I will take no comfort in it.’ And yet, right in our deepest and worst mishaps, often, our Christ is lying, waiting for resurrection. Where our death seems to be, there our Savior is. Where the end of hope is, there is the brightest beginning of fruition. Where the darkness is thickest, there the bright beaming light that never is set is about to emerge. When the whole experience is consummated, then we find that a garden is not disfigured by a sepulcher.”

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Spiritual Sight

“Faith is ... the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses]” (Hebrews 11:1).
“The issue of spiritual sight is the recognition of the Lord Jesus”—T. Austin-Sparks.
Opening the eyes of the blind is a primary and signature feature of Christ’s ministry, but spiritual sight—spiritual understanding—not natural sight, is the ultimate point. Eye-gates are the windows of the soul, and Christ came to either open or shut them, closing some with parables and opening others with explicit words and a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.
When Moses complained of his lack of ability to speak on God’s behalf, God interestingly said: “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or SEEING or BLIND? Is it not I, the Lord?” (Exodus 4:11). We can only speak about that which we see—and on some level—understand. Also, our understanding is inextricably tied to God’s sovereignty. But God’s sovereignty does not negate our responsibility to develop the proper internal disposition for enlightenment. Moses—being the meekest man upon the face of the earth—preconditioned himself to see and hear God. Unambiguously, God resists the proud, but draws near to the humble. Since Christ knew the hearts of all men, he spoke in parables to those not internally preconditioned to love truth, but “Explained Him” to those that did.
All of us—at some time or another—have heard the ridiculous and clich├ęd assertion that “faith is blind;” hardly anything could be further from the truth. Faith, “the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality,” is sight beyond natural perception; spiritual sight—which is the effect of faith—sees clearer and deeper than even the best and most thorough scientific scrutiny. The kingdom of God—which scripture declares does not come with observation—is no less real because of its invisibility to scientific inquiry and carnal perception. Spiritual or supernatural reality cannot be seen or discerned by carnal or natural man. Jesus made it plain: “Unless someone is born again, he cannot SEE the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
Ultimately, faith is obedience and spiritual sight, its fruit. Since “whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23), then to not be born again and see the kingdom of God is sin. Faith, or obedience, opens the eyes of the blind; unbelief, or disobedience, sews the eyes shut. As George MacDonald observed, “He who does that which he sees, shall understand; he who is set upon understanding rather than doing, shall go on stumbling and mistaking and speaking foolishness.” In other words, faith sees and does according to what sight suggests without perfect enlightenment; as some light is seen and obeyed, more light is given. Many never see anything substantial—thus they rationalize and justify continuing in unbelief—because they are unwilling to obey the initial light of light. Real faith is dynamic, superfluous and of a whole (sight and action are inextricably linked). Real faith never merely sees; it must also do what it sees. Those who invert the process—demanding to see before they obey—never get past the initial light of life and therefore their vision is never incrementally widened and clarified until the entire picture opens up before their eyes.
I like what T. Austin-Sparks said on this matter: “As we contemplate the state of things in the world today, we are very deeply impressed and oppressed with the prevailing malady of spiritual blindness. It is the root malady of the time. We should not be far wrong if we said that most, if not all, of the troubles from which the world is suffering, are traceable to that root, namely, blindness. The masses are blind; there is no doubt about that. In a day which is supposed to be a day of unequalled enlightenment, the masses are blind. The leaders are blind, blind leaders of the blind. But in a very large measure, the same is true of the Lord's people. Speaking quite generally, Christians are today very blind.”
The solution, though exceedingly simple, is lost to many souls because they love darkness rather than light. Jesus made it clear that “In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). Also, Jesus is “the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9). In other words, every soul is given the initial light of life; even before conversion, we have a responsibility to obey what little light we see. Since Jesus did not come to condemn, but to save—and opening the eyes of the blind was his most prevalent sign—people are without excuse in regards to the unbelief they persist in. And ignorant Christians—enlightened but a little—are also unbelieving in many ways short of full redemption.
For full-fledged unbelievers and carnal believers alike these words ring true: “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God” (John 3:19-21). Spiritual sight must be opened along two tracks: As our eyes open to the holiness and beauty of the Lord, they must also open to the reality of our own depravity and ugliness.
Spiritual sight—like natural sight—is stereoscopic in nature. Each eye sees its own image that is then reconciled in the brain to make one comprehensive and multi-dimensional image. We are to have a deep and penetrating vision, a revelation about two things in fullness. In our first eye, we are to see the depths of the blackness of our own heart, how it is utterly depraved. In our second eye, we are to see that God loves us more than we could ever imagine. These two lines of sight—this dual revelation—forms one coherent, comprehensive and balanced picture of truth. By reconciling our depravity with His mercy we become both humble and secure, dead to ourselves and alive unto God simultaneously. When our eye is truly single (but comprised of these two pictures in harmonious oneness) our whole body becomes full of light, and in that full spectrum of light, we come to see that mercy really does triumph over judgment.