by Morris Ruddick on August 2, 2014


(c) Morris E. Ruddick

“Why do the nations rage and the people plot in vain? For the kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying ‘let us break their bonds in pieces and cast away their cords from us.'” Psalm 2:1-3

While having a great love for understanding the times and uncovering the depths in the knowledge of God, I continue to be astounded by the power implicit in the simple things that IMG_0482God has given us to confound the wise.

Few books I have read in recent years have had more of an impact on me than “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand. It recounts the story of an Olympian runner, Louie Zamperini, who died earlier this year at the age of 97. The story is uncommonly real and well-presented, written by the author of “Seabiscuit.”

There’s a message this story carries that relates to the times we have entered.

Having distinguished himself in the 1936 Olympics, Mr. Zamperini’s chances at the gold were circumvented with the start of WWII. He became a bombardier and after many exploits in combat, was in a plane crash and lost in the Pacific. After an amazing survival story of 47 days drifting on a raft, he wound up as a Japanese POW.

During his captivity, he lived through two years of brutality and deprivation, many times believing, with cause, that he would not live another day. All this pervaded his upbeat, disciplined and resolute personality. Following the war, these experiences began severely short-circuiting his future, until his amazing encounter with the Lord.

During the sixties, for two years I served as a combat Marine. During the many battles I experienced, I had more times than I care to recount, that I thought I was going to die. Not unlike Mr. Zamperini, I experienced a defiance in the face of death. These deeply personal experiences became the very bedrock by which the Lord revealed Himself to me, leading to my commitment as a Christian.

Those experiences also have become common ground with a number of the Christian leaders I work with in Vietnam who have spent two to three years in hard-labor prison camps for their faith, with far too many instances in not knowing if they would see the light of the next day, yet facing the ultimate test without wavering. Not unlike the Pacific POW camps of WWII, there were many who did not survive these internments.

In reading Mr. Zamperini’s story, I found myself re-living many of my own close encounters with death. Despite a number of decorations for my actions in combat, I’ve never had the desire to share these “war stories” with others. There’s something very personal, to a degree almost sacred, about encounters that cheat death.

The story of this extremely disciplined Olympian is emotional, as it relates the struggles he had upon his return to “normal” life after the war. Despite being a war hero, he employed masks to deal with the grip he was losing on regaining what he once had.

While understanding his trauma, I’ve personally never related very well to masks, phoniness or the superficial. My tolerance for these factors in Christian settings is even less because, in my view of things, they not only fall far short of God’s standard and the expectations He has for those called by His name, they are snares that distance us from Him. Reality is defined by the One who created it. His reality is the standard to bring individuals and societies into the balance and healing sought by all.

Unreserved, God-focused commitment and disciplined, ongoing spiritual maintenance will nip even the most traumatic experiences in the bud. On the other hand, masks are what perpetuate and keep emotional baggage fed and alive.

However, there is another graphic illustration that the Zamperini story portrays. It is the picture of the systematic stripping of dignity, honor and hope that took place during his time in the prisoner of war camp. It is an apt picture of the evil behind the world’s system, bent on squeezing the life out of the multitudes and separating people from the goodness of God.

Distortions of Reality
This dynamic triggers the unchecked illusions and distortions that operate all around us. It feeds into the aims of evil which wields the power of destruction and death. We see its operation in seats of power — as its cohorts attempt to define good as evil, and evil as good. Psalm 94:20 describes a throne of destruction which devises evil by law, which has absolutely no correlation to the goodness of God.

Those enticed with and who toy with special powers of death are bonding with and then establishing alliances with death. Death is at the very core of darkness. It is the last enemy to be abolished according to the Apostle Paul (1 Cor 15:26).

Jesus said even the very elect would face deceptive entrapments. The subtlety is that life and death are in the power of the tongue, with enticements that misuse the anointing and distort God’s reality and power. The prophet wrote that: “Through deceit they refuse to know Me” (Jer 9:6). Only God, can remedy the entangled webs of evil designed to ensnare and bring down even those of an upright heart. Humility and fear of the Lord are the antidotes. Whereas pride and the ambitious pursuit of power will corrupt, the truly humble and contrite of spirit will never be turned away.

In short, as individuals known by His name, we are called to bless and not curse, to give life and not death. Jesus instructed us to bless even our enemies. The calling of Abraham explains that this is God’s purview alone. Indeed, God will bless those who bless His own, but will also curse those who try to curse those known by His name.

Distortions of reality and alliances with death have resulted in a world rampant with spiritual defilements. Death has embedded itself in the cultures of the world and the traditions of men, albeit superstitions, to the extent that they are accepted and embraced as normal. Ever see a thirteenth floor on elevator stops of a tall building?

What took place in the Japanese POW camp with Louie Zamperini is the manifestation of evil resident in the world. It parallels what those I’ve already mentioned, in being persecuted for their faith have gone through. The evil one specializes in pathways of defilements that lead to brokenness.

King David, after his fall, understood the dynamics that God’s people have to contend with. They involve not only sin, but the defilements, created by the cultural iniquities, which combine in their intent to divert and crush the progress of good. In Psalm 51 David cries out to the Lord to be washed from those iniquities which culturally crowd the righteous as snares and triggers of sin. Many have been the times I have returned from ministering and penetrating the lairs of darkness only to feel an overwhelming need for a “spiritual bath.” These are the times in which priority needs to be given to getting alone with the Lord with immersions in His presence and truth.

God’s presence and truth cleanses and restores. Yet this process demands a right heart, a heart of humility and a strong, continual dose of the fear of the Lord.
“Wash me from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. You desire truth in the inward parts and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean…. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You.” From Psalm 51:2-13

Response to the Counterfeit: The Design by God
The story of Louie Zamperini is a story of the colliding — between a life held in the bondage of masks and the superficial — and the reality that only God can provide and bring into wholeness. It is a story of facing your fears. It is a story of becoming a true God-pleaser and embracing reality.

We live in a world of illusions. What we refer to as smoking mirrors is employed at the highest levels. The perception has been confused with the reality. Masks define identities. Superficialities drive priorities. Leadership is mistaken for who is in charge.

Jesus came to reset the way we look at things. He came to unmask the counterfeit. He unveiled the realities, which redefine the priorities. There’s a major difference between brokenness and humility. Humility is the process of taking the steps to remove the masks and face the fears that the evil one uses in paths to brokenness.

In this upside-down world, the illusions warp true reality with the distortions intent on seducing the multitudes into pathways of destruction. Yet, from the beginning, God has had a design for His people.

Jesus described this design and raised the bar for what God gave to His covenant people. At its core is the purpose, which God gave to Abraham in calling him out of the world, that he might “be blessed to be a blessing.” The model of economic community with God at helm also came from the way Abraham and then Moses organized community, which in effect, is as a light shining on a hill. He provided the foundations to operate as a culture within a culture, one that makes a difference.

God’s design defines the pathway defining our lives. It is more, much more, than just the idle talk and the clutter which overshadows the world around us. This design is a paradox to the way the world thinks and perceives the realities. It is the way of the Kingdom.

God’s design is the pathway that leads to Life, not a counterfeit or distorted illusion, but rather true Life. Jesus made it plain that it is a narrow and difficult path. There is a simplicity in entering its gates, but a steadfast resolve that is needed to overcome the seductive hurdles to maintain the focus and stay the course.

The reality is that within the world in which we live, what we are traversing is a narrow corridor between Life and death. Yet death and the fear of death, when the path is maintained according to God’s design, has no grip on us. The Kingdom is distinguished by a simple strategy: the application of righteous power in corrupt settings.

Those who have been delivered from the occult recognize the realities between Life and death. At the crux of the occult are flirtations and manipulations with death. Evil is a magnet for death. So is pride, especially the pride behind quests for power. Destruction and poverty result when death rules.
“Can a throne of destruction be allied with Thee, one which devises mischief by decree? They band themselves together against the life of the righteous, and condemn the innocent to death.” Ps 94:20-21

The story of Louie Zamperini illustrates how people, believers and non-believers alike, put God in a box. They establish their own order of illusions. They mask the realities of life with superficialities. Then there comes a time when the order established by human limitations falls short. Surviving both the plane crash and then the 47 days on a raft was a jolt to the former priorities of Mr. Zamperini’s life.

The Fear of the Lord
Whether brokenness is the result of blindness created by prideful superficialities or circumstances beyond ones control or both, the Lord embraces such ones, who if they maintain the focus of genuine humility, He will then make whole.
“By humility and fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life.” Prov 22:4

The combination of humility and true fear of the Lord equip us to face the ultimate tests. Those I’ve worked with in Vietnam who were imprisoned for their faith understand this reality. For that reason, and having been refined by such fires, they are steadfast and unbroken. Yet without the dimensions of the fear of the Lord and genuine humility, the pathway leads to simply becoming “full of ourselves.”

A consciousness of God’s presence is evident among these former “prisoners for the Lord.” It is tangible. So likewise is the anointing that defines their perspectives and priorities. It is not surprising that the fruit from their efforts represent the seedbeds for revival and the sparks that penetrate the darkness that is changing the spiritual climates of their domains.

The fear of the Lord is at the crux of being whole. Alternately, at the core of stumbling within Christian circles, even leadership circles, are the masks and superficialities that distort true identities and open the door for the defilements designed to short-circuit God-designed destinies

The psalmist got it. He wrote in Psalm 23 that the Lord restores our soul and leads us in a pathway of righteousness. Then even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death that we will fear no evil — for the Lord will be with us. The Lord will comfort us. He will also prepare a table before us in the presence of our enemies. In short, we can expect the demonstration of God’s reality on our behalf, even as darkness covers the earth. It is then that we will shine the brightest.
“Arise, shine for your light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the people. But the Lord will arise over you and His glory will be seen upon you. Gentiles shall come to your light and kings to the brightness of your rising.” Isaiah 60:1-3

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