The Soldier

“Tell me a story, Daddy!” the little boy exclaimed.

Looking down at his son, the Dad did not see a little boy, but a future soldier. A man who was in training to face the battles of real life, someone who would one day face the world and need to be prepared for it.

So the Dad softly began the story.

“Once upon a time there was a soldier, who served a mighty king. One day, the mighty king called all his soldiers to battle. Like a good man, our soldier responded and headed for the battle.

“The enemy was fierce and terrible. It was said that the enemy was as fierce as a roaring lion. At first this intimidated the soldier, but he pressed on because the king had called him.

“The fighting was intense and many men died. The enemy ravaged the towns and villages of the countryside, burned buildings and killed families. It was brutal. But still the soldier fought on, knowing his king would not let him fight alone.

“At one point, the enemy fought especially hard. It seemed like there was no way for the kingsmen to live out the fight. Some soldiers fled, but our soldier sent a petition to the king and the king sent reinforcements that drove the enemy away—but not after a long night’s fighting. During the night, the enemy made a surprise attack and our soldier was injured. The kingsmen took him aside and comforted him, but eventually they all went back to their fighting.

“The soldier felt all alone. It was dark and he could hear the screams and horrors of the battle. He almost despaired, but just then he felt a firm hand and heard a friendly voice say, ‘I am with you, soldier! Don’t give up; you will be healed if you make it through the night!’ It was the army’s great physician, who had come to help!

“The soldier was encouraged and able to tolerate the darkness a little more after this. But it was still so very lonely. He could hear the enemy making a great noise and he was intimidated.

“Soon the sun began to rise. The soldier could see the glimmer in the far eastern sky. Already the soldier could tell that whatever the great physician had done was healing his body. He sat up and looked around. By now the fighting was over, and had moved to a different place, but the destruction was obvious. The enemy had killed and destroyed, burned and plundered, what hope was left?

“The soldier wondered if there was hope. He saw the destruction from the battle and wondered what good could come from it? Could anything beautiful ever arise again? The soldier looked at his arms and legs, all bruised and bloody: could he ever live normally again?

“Questions and doubt plagued his mind. At first he resigned to the destruction, realizing there was no way around it. This was reality. But as the soldier crawled through the dirt and the ashes, he became angry. Why hadn’t the king responded sooner? Why did the king allow the army’s numbers to become so depleted? Hadn’t the king failed?

“But just then, the soldier looked up, and right there, right in front of him stood the king.

“‘The enemy has been routed and the nation has been saved,’ the king said.

“The soldier was ashamed at his thoughts and anger and looked down mournfully. ‘I am sorry to doubt you,’ said he.

“‘Do not be ashamed, sir,’ said the king. ‘But come and arise, we are victorious!’ And with that the king grabbed hold of the soldier’s shoulders and hoisted the man to his feet.

“‘There is nothing to fear because I will always protect you,’ affirmed the great king. ‘You will never be alone, but always safe under my protection. So go now walk in my joy because you are my victorious soldier.”

The Dad looked at his son who was now fast asleep. It was his story: the Dad was the soldier, and Jesus was the king. One day the little boy was going to face the same experience and the same struggle. He was going to be hurt and would need healing; he was going to doubt, and would need renewed faith. But until then, he would sleep in the safe and loving arms of his dad.

Safe

Phil Wickham

To the one whose dreams have fallen all apart
And all you’re left with is a tired and broken heart
I can tell by your eyes you think you’re on your own
But you’re not alone

Have you heard of the One who can calm the raging seas
Give sight to the blind, pull the lame up to their feet
With a love so strong it never lets you go
No you’re not alone

You will be safe in His arms. You will be safe in His arms
The hands that hold the world are holding your heart
This is the promise He made, He will be with you always
When everything is falling apart, you will be safe in His arms

Did you know that the voice that brings the dead to life
Is the very same voice that calls you now to rise
So hear Him now, He’s calling you home. You will never be alone

You will be safe in His arms. You will be safe in His arms
The hands that hold the world are holding your heart
This is the promise He made, He will be with you always
When everything is falling apart, you will be safe in His arms

Cause these are the hands that built the mountains,

the hands that calm the sea
These are the arms that hold the lame

and they are holding you and me
These are the hands that heal the leper

pull the lame up to their feet
These are the arms that were nailed to the cross

to break our chains and set us free

You will be safe in His arms. You will be safe in His arms
The hands that hold the world are holding your heart
This is the promise He made, He will be with you always
When everything is falling apart, you will be safe in His arms

C.D.

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Grieving

People say that grief comes in stages, like a staircase maybe. To be honest, I have found that the “stages” of grief are not as distinct as I thought they would be. There is not much of a pattern to how I have grieved. For me, I think grief is better explained as a pool which I am swimming in. Some days I am on the deep end, floundering around in pain and grief that is over my head and it feels like God is far away. Other days I am in the shallow end dealing with easy stuff, and I know I am safe because I can see God. Yes, I like it: grief is more like a pool, not a staircase.

I think most Christians realize that life is a battle, and more importantly, a spiritual battle. But tragically not very many of us are willing to openly talk about our battles. Where are we at, in our battles? How are they going? If it is a fact that we are all in a battle, then let’s be real about it. Let’s confess when we fail, rejoice and sing when there is victory—and intercede when there is intense fighting. Am I describing church? I hope so.

I am in a new battle: my Mom was recently killed in a car accident, (see post “[Not] an Accident”). The grieving process has been completely different from what I expected. At first, God felt extremely close and dear. My faith was nearly unshakable, and I could freely praise God.

Lately, though, it has been more intense. And my emotions have gotten themselves confused with sea waves, going back-and-forth, back-and-forth. It requires some of the most intense fighting I have ever had to do, and unfortunately, I stink at it. I am so pathetic when it comes to warfare because I just quit trying after awhile. Satan attacks me full force with every lie I have ever struggled with since I was a kid, and like a toy action figure I just plop over. I struggle with lies: lies about myself, lies about my friends and family, and lies about God.

Satan is like a spider, weaving webs of deceit and despair waiting for me to blindly walk right into them. I need a rescuer to cut away the sticky threads that get matted into my hair, and stuck onto my skin. Every day I need to take a bath in the peace and love of God, or my soul begins to reek. I hate baths. They are so humbling and time-consuming. I have things to do ya know.

Sometimes, we as Christians get strange ideas into our heads. They become foundational beliefs that weigh us down and drive people away. One belief that has weighed me down for years is the lie that I need to be perfect [failure-less] in order to please God. A lie that often accompanies this belief is that God does not love me unconditionally. But the truth is completely opposite! The truth is that God loves me no matter what I do! “God demonstrated His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” (Romans 8:5). And because He loves me God sent His son, Jesus Christ, to die in my stead. And He has placed on me, Christ’s perfection so that God and I might again have fellowship (see Romans 5; actually, read the whole book).

I do not think that God is asking us to get our lives, our thoughts and actions, straightened out and perfected. But rather, I think He is asking us to simply depend [trust] upon Him for forgiveness and security. He is asking us to surrender. He can do anything with anyone who surrenders.

So I choose to trust God. Faith, love, trust, hope—all of this is a choice. If I only trusted when I “felt like it,” frankly, I would have abandoned my faith long ago.

Let’s be open about our battles, because they are real and intense. There is no shame in struggle. The shame comes from hiding failure. “He that covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

I was blessed by Tenth Avenue North’s latest album, The Struggle, even before Mom’s death, but recently the song “Worn” from that album has been brought back to the forefront of my thoughts. I think the lyrics are some of the most beautiful expressions of the spiritual battle we all face, that I have ever heard. So I have included them below. Listen to the music as well, if you can, it is also very beautiful.

Worn

Tenth Avenue North

I’m Tired I’m worn
My heart is heavy
From the work it takes
To keep on breathing.

I’ve made mistakes
I’ve let my hope fail
My soul feels crushed
By the weight of this world.

And I know that you can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left.

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn.

I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
‘Cause I’m worn.

I know I need to lift my eyes up
But I’m too weak
Life just won’t let up
And I know that you can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left.

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn.

I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
‘Cause I’m worn.

My prayers are wearing thin
Even before the day begins
I’ve lost my will to fight
So, heaven come and flood my eyes.

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn.

I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
‘Cause I’m worn.

C.D.

The Battle Rages

Have you ever noticed how many “guy” movies include many intense action scenes? Most guys can relate to this, and many guys get a thrill out of it. The battle, the sweat, the uphill climb—is all very realistic to us. We identify because that is who we are. We are fighters. We are made to fight—to struggle [not with flesh and blood, but against principalities (spiritually)].

But when it comes to real life, very few guys actually like to fight. Who would? It is so easy to quit and give it all up: to say it is impossible. Who wants to keep fighting while struggling against lie after lie that the enemy throws at you? Giving up looks so easy when “blood” is spilt and God seems farther away than ever.

So what do we do? We give up. We surrender to the enemy and withdraw. We turn our attention to things which are not real. Trucks and movies, sports and girls, jobs and perfecting personal doctrines suddenly become really important to us. We disengage our forces and turn into wet-noodle knights. We forget reality and begin to think that trucks, sports, and girls are what life is really all about.

But we were made to fight and protect, yet we are doing neither; inside we are longing to fulfill our nature, but we have forsaken it. So we turn to other fulfillments. We begin to indulge into personal pleasures at unnatural proportions. Numerous guys become consumed by video games that give them a vague sense of feeling like a winner. Many men devote their lives to jobs, deceiving themselves into thinking they are providing and protecting. Countless others turn to sex, feeling like they have conquered. And many just give up trying, all together, and dive into drugs and alcohol to escape the pain.

The battle is real, and it does not go away. Satan comes to kill, steal, and destroy. He never rests, he never stops for a breather, but is constantly fighting. Satan cannot defeat God, but every soul he drags down to hell is a victory for him.

I write this because it describes who I once was—and could easily become again. I write this because it seems like so many of us guys, or young people in general, just sit down and quit as soon as the internal warfare begins. Are we as young people truly content with being the wet noodles we often appear to be?  Spiritual battles are not the quaint occurrences we often imagine them to be where Satan discourages us with a headache and we say “Go away, boo!” Spiritual battles are genuine battles! They are bloody and gory and messy. Satan attacks the very foundation of our faith and belief in God. He throws at us pitiful lies that he was wanted us to believe for years. And he does not stop. He does it again, and again. Like a battering ram at a castle gate, just waiting for us to crumble.

This is when we need to cry out to God. We need someone more powerful than the enemy to come in and defeat him. So we fall flat on our faces desperate for help. And the Almighty steps in, picks us up, and fights our battles with us.

This is reality. This is warfare. This is Christianity. Let’s keep fighting, because there is a Savior and there is an end—and it’s not too far away. Hallelujah!

C.D.

Bread and Water

I love water. My tongue delights at the touch of water. Without water my body would shrivel up like a peanut and die. Water is very important to me. I also love food. Food gives me strength and satisfies the every groaning of my poor stomach. Without food I would become a useless noodle.

So is life. God created our bodies to need sustenance. Without carbohydrates, protein, minerals, vitamins, oxygen and such things, we would die. Hands down.

When Jesus said that He is the Water and Bread of Life, He wasn’t just being romantic or poetic—He was being real. He was giving us the answer to our deepest questions and longings. He was telling us that if we want love and peace in our hearts and strength to make it through the toughest of days—if we want life—then we have got to consume Him: Jesus Christ, the Son of God. We must eat the Bread and drink the Water if we want the Life! It is imperative, mandatory. True peace, hope, love, and joy can only come from Jesus; even as physical energy, strength, and health can only come from food and water. Hands down.

Right now I am sick, and my body is worn out from needing to protect its self from evil pathogens and the likes. It works hard and I try to help it every way I can so that I can get back to normal life. (I don’t like being sick, you see.) But what about my spiritual health? Do we just let our souls fight sickness on its own? Or do we continually return to the Water and Bread of Life to keep our Souls healthy? We eat, He works. Feed and drink on Jesus Christ and consume His “nutrients”. There is no such thing as a spiritual glutton, take in as much as He gives—which everything.

“Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life. . . . . The woman said to Him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us. Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am He.’” – John 6:13-14, 25

“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.’” – John 6:35

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” – John 15:4