I’m into the seventh week of the class, “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement” and to say that it has been messing with a lot of my preconceptions and ideas is putting it mildly. Previous to this course I was comfortable (or as I heard tonight, “settled” into complacency) in my walk with Christ. Now…
In many ways part of what is happening has to do with my priorities as well as what “I” want to do with what remains of my life. Kathy (my wife) is planning on retiring in a few months and while our income will be adequate for some of our plans (travel to Israel is one dream), a lot of what we’ve discussed seems selfish when looking at it with an eternal perspective. Damn it, I was happy just floating along as I had been previously. Now…
Before taking this class I ‘knew’ much of what was happening worldwide in missions and the need for missionaries to go as well as others to support them. Yeah, putting my share in the kitty at The Bridge Church was a part of all that, but the idea of my going somewhere seemed ludicrous and unnecessary. Who would want a nearly 70-year-old man with a capital felony record as a missionary? So, sitting in our comfortable home and doing odd things about the community seemed to be ‘my part’ in reaching the world for Christ. Now…
Every week God shows me new insights into what He has done and is now doing around the world and even here in Wilmington. Ideas of how I can help here and now seem to abound lately as well as my emotions being closer to the surface than ever before. My heart breaks for the homeless in the area as we prepared for yet another hurricane; how will they survive or what can be done to support them? I’d never really thought like that before (when Florence hit us last year, such thoughts never entered my mind). Now…
My life before this course has been wrapped up in computer games, occasional study in the Word (not much, actually), just the usual nonsense that kept my focus on me, myself and I (as much an unholy trinity if ever there was one!). I battled depression and often had no desire to do anything other than watch television, play computer games and just vegetate. I’d fooled myself into thinking that the chores, doing other ‘stuff’ could wait for tomorrow; that after all I’d been through, as the commercial once put it, “you deserve a break today.” My ‘break’ seemed to extend to one day, one week, one month after another. Now…
Speaking with Barbara Yandell tonight after class I did ask if there was a future or use for me as a missionary to the Muslims. What she said kind of rattled me; that with training God could use me here and now in the city of Wilmington reaching out to Muslim men who were suffering from PTSD from the experiences they’d suffered in their native lands that drove them to America. Me, speak to those whose culture was so antithetical to mine, who screamed, “Death to America!” on television and celebrated on 9/11. I could never do anything to such other than maybe a half-hearted prayer they be saved. Never would I actually reach out to them. It was never even a consideration. Now…
I’ve had several people through the years since my release from prison speak to how much I remind them of Joseph whose life is shared in Genesis 38 and following. Both of us spent time in prison, though in my case not because I was wrongly accused or convicted. No, other than some prison time, there is little to no comparison between Joseph and me.
During a praise and worship service at the Bridge Church tonight as God had begun working on me, it was all too apparent that in light of my recent walk with Christ, I was more like the person spoken of in the hymn, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” all to prone to wander. Time and again I have walked (jumped, run, fled) from that first love that so sustained me through many a dark time in prison. Why? Excuses are many, but no real reason other than wanting somehow to hold onto at least a part of the old Tony.
One particular failure on my part continues to rear its ugly head; lust. I’ve spoken with Pastor Chris about this and even have gone so far as to install “Covenant Eyes” on my computers and phone, but though I don’t look at porn anymore the ‘hook’ remains buried deeply in my heart. As long as I remain focused on the Word or have activities that keep me going, it isn’t a problem. But, as another person from Scripture found and whom is a far better comparison with me (at least in this one instance) is David.
“Then it happened, in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel, and they destroyed the sons of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem.”
2 Samuel 11:1 NASB (emphasis added)
Note that instead of going with Israel, leading his people into war as a king should, David remained in Jerusalem. No big deal, right?
“Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king’s house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance. So David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, ‘Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?’”
Samuel 11:2,3 NASB (emphasis added)
Bad enough that David had skipped out on his duty as king to lead Israel into battle, but as the above verses indicate, he not only stayed in Jerusalem, he also lived an indolent lifestyle while his army and people were away at war. Getting up “…when evening came…” shows he must’ve been partying hardy the night before and was sleeping off the effects, or he was just being lazy. Surely there were duties he could have attended to, even if the army was gone and with it many of his officials. But no, David slept in and then just wandered out on the roof of the palace (no air-conditioning, so perhaps a means of escaping the heat that had. Built up within the palace by walking along the parapet outside to catch the evening breeze. Scripture doesn’t go into his thoughts before he espied Bathsheba, but I have to wonder if he was surveying his capital and perhaps taking the credit for all God had done to bring him to this point (much as Nebuchadnezzar did some years later).
Even if David was only out there to enjoy the air and perhaps composing a new worship song, once his eye just happened to pass over and see Bathsheba bathing on the roof of the home she shared with Uriah, all thoughts of praise to God disappeared! Even when his servants pointed out to him that she was one of faithful soldier’s wife, even then he summoned her to the palace.
For myself, idleness and the all-too-readily available pornography (or even the explosion of salacious material in ads or on television) led my heart from my King over and over. This is a war which continues to defy my most fervent prayers and the seed for this goes all the way back to when I was in third grade, living outside Virginia Beach, VA. Hilltop Manor was a nice neighborhood in which my Dad and Mom bought a home for us to live in while Dad was stationed at Oceana Naval Air Station and on the U.S.S. Forrestal, CVA-59. Lots of woods surrounded this development and many of us kids (including my two brothers and I) kept ourselves busy becoming all manner of heroes in our imaginations.
One day my Dad asked me to go to our next-door neighbor’s house to see if he was finished with a tool Dad had lent him. I rang their doorbell, and when his wife told me he was out in his tool shed off the carport, I ran out to that and when I noticed he was there stepped to the door. What met my eyes, much as David’s) was a panoply of what to this 8-year old boy, the most beautiful women in the world, all without clothes (or clothes artfully draped without covering anything). I am not sure how long I stood there mouth agape until the neighbor noticed me. He did manage to get me to tell him why I was there and handed me the tool to return to my Dad. Those images remain with me to this day, and the far too many that I’ve viewed since then.
“Covenant Eyes” is an excellent piece of software that has enabled me at least to not add to the images already in my brain. Sadly, however, when my own inactivity gives me opportunity, I too take a walk and find myself replaying those images. As with David and so many before and after him have discovered, eyes are indeed the window to the soul. For man, eyes seem to be able to bypass the roadblocks to sin that the Spirit can erect within our hearts. Successes in this battle do come, thankfully even with an increasing frequency, but it is a war that will continue until I leave this jar of clay.
I ask for your prayers for myself as well as for all the ‘David’s’ you know.