A Voice in the Wilderness - Observations and Excursions of a Christian Zealot

Terry Walker's Weblog --- Occasional articles on the Christian Ethic

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Secrets ---- Things aren’t always what they appear to be.

To be honest; one of the hardest things I do in my life is write. For every article I write, I have two that never make it to completion and five ideas that don’t stick long enough to write about them. And I question if the ones that make it past me, and my pastor's editing, have any effect at all. But every now and then I see a letter or article hit home when someone calls and shares his story of sorrow, repentance and joy. Still, writing is like cooking, except without the great meal afterwards. It’s like watching the first two and a half hours of the “Ten Commandments” and never finding out if Charlton Heston actually gets out of Egypt. It’s like a fishing trip I had with a few of my friends last year.

We were in Port Royal sound, near Hilton Head. With the low tide fast approaching, the current in the channel was swift, but no match for my little boat, when suddenly the drag on one of my 15 foot outriggers “ugly sticks”, running slow and deep, started to sing. 100 pound test line stripped off the spool of my ocean bait caster reel, but no worries, I had 300 yards of the super thick line. I set the hook and handed the huge rod to my “little” big sister, who was barely 1/3 its length.

As she fought the monster fish I piloted the boat to the right, then left, then right again. We sped up and slowed down and followed the goliath fish wherever he cared to swim. But alas, my sister’s arm could no longer restrain the pull of our behemoth, so she passed the mega rod to another mate on board. For another 40 minutes we battled the fish as the ever increasing current rushed down river and into the ocean. Piloting the boat up the rip current was getting difficult, but we continued to follow the fish for what seemed like miles. As we entered the second hour, a third passenger took his turn at fighting the fish, and I began to worry about the 4 ought treble hooks bending and pulling out of our prey. We had been very careful not to stress the line and equipment, so as not to lose another monster fish like we did the year before, but if this was a shark, his teeth were surely cutting through the 250 pound test, stainless steel cable leader, that the 3” long hooks were attached to.

The weather was getting rough, and the arms of my companions were starting to resemble noodles, so I decided it was time to get serious with this fish and at least bring him to the surface so we could get a look at him. So I took hold of the massive rod, nearly two and a half times as long as me and gave it a great heave, and the fish made nary a move. Another heave and progress was made, but it did not fight like a finned fish. Perhaps it was a mammoth sting ray, or a sturgeon. Another heave and the rod bent into a huge graceful arc and I felt a release at the other end of the line, like maybe a 100 pound Halibut coming off the bottom. I started reeling in as the fish seemed to come up through the current, toward the boat. Sometimes huge fish will turn toward the fisherman to put slack in the line, so I reeled furiously. I could feel the 16 ounce lead weight that preceded the 4’ long steel leader, so I knew we hadn’t broken the monofilament line. We watched the battle underneath the boat on the LCD screen of my sonar fish finder, as the sinker slashed from side to side, causing long black lines on the screen. When the large lead weight finally broke the surface, we all hovered over the side of the boat to see the enormous fish. I gave one last heave and pulled our quarry onto the boat. Stunned at its shear size, we all stood aghast at what turned out to be a 9” long piece of fan coral. That’s right, for two hours we fought a piece of coral, firmly attached to the sea bed. We thought we had traveled miles fighting a fish, when in reality the GPS chart showed we had never moved more the 100 yards from our original position. The rip current was so fast that the boat had to travel upstream nearly 10 miles an hour just to stay in the same position! Sometimes things aren’t always what they appear to be. It only appeared that we were moving. It only seemed that we had hooked a huge fish, and in the end we had nothing but a great story to show for our time.

I imagine Hell will be like that. It will be filled with “so called” Christians who have nothing to show for their lives on Earth except great stories. I suppose they will try, as best they can, to rid their memories of their eternal judgment, by recalling their various temporal escapades they pursued while they were yet alive. After all, when there is no hope for your future, beyond that of more searing pain from your burning flesh, you have little else to hold on too except the short time you experienced pleasure. But like age has nearly extinguished the memories of my childhood fishing trips, consequence have a way a making things once cherished, quite forgettable. Do you wonder if those in Hell, after a thousand years of constant torment, will fondly remember their 70 years on Earth? Or do you think the consuming fire that continually ravages their bodies, yet leaves their minds perfectly alert, will cause them to endlessly wish for the never coming relief of oblivion?

Perhaps the Jews, now in Hell, but who were once in Antioch of Pisidia, will think back to the time they were on Earth and consider why they incited the women of prominence, who were worshipers, and the leading men of the city, and stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas for preaching the Gospel to them. (Acts 13:14-52 NABWRNT) But wait! Notice that the gentile “women of prominence” were worshipers and yet they took part in persecuting Paul. One wonders, who did these women worship? Certainly, as worshippers, they thought themselves spiritual and religious. Certainly, as worshippers, they thought of themselves as saved and destined for Heaven. Yet do they not now find themselves in screaming agony within the flames of deepest Hell? These “women of prominence” were not what they appeared to be. While the world saw them as “worshipers”, God saw them as workers of iniquity. Verse 45 says, “Then the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and with violent abuse contradicted what Paul said.” To reject the Gospel, regardless of whose mouth it utters from, is to reject God. The problem here was a hidden secret, a secret of personal idolatry, demonstrated through jealousy. So there it is; the secret reveled, the Jews and prominent Gentiles of Pisidian Antioch loved themselves straight to Hell.

The problem with secrets is that sometimes they are so secret you don’t even know they exist. Such things happen to the unsaved, but even a Christian’s heart remains desperately wicked. And a desperately wicked heart can hide a great deal of evil secrets.

The Jews thought themselves religious worshipers of God, yet when confronted with the truth of the Gospel, they balked without inner reflection or self confrontation. They did not question their presumed salvation through the Law of Moses, even when Paul said, “Through Jesus is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the Law of Moses.” Even after being warned “Beware, don’t let the prophets’ words apply to you. For they said, Look you mockers, be amazed and die!” Paul told them to “Beware,” In other words “Inspect yourselves, be certain of your spiritual condition, lest you be found unjustified.” But because of their refusal to judge themselves accurately, the Jews remained blind, became mockers, and die they did.

If American Chritians are not to end up as the Jews in Pisidian Antioch, we must learn that our hearts too, are desperately wicked. To rely on your heart as an indicator of your spiritual condition, will surely leave you in a state of blind ignorance. We must put ourselves to the biblical test and see how our lives match up, constantly exposing our inner motives and thoughts, lest a secret sin creep in and destroy us. When was the last time you exposed your deepest secrets to a little Biblical light. Sins are like cockroaches, you don’t know you have them until you turn on the lights. Perhaps it’s time for some confessional exposure of your heart to your Savior and a trusted friend. The Savior is for forgiveness and the nosy friend is for accountability. There is no relief like repentantly ripping secret skeletons out of your closet and throwing them into the dumpster of forgiveness, before bitterness and blindness sets in.

Many years ago I had a 25 year female friend, the middle child of three sisters. She and her older sister were badly scalded in a bathtub as infants, when they managed to turn the hot water on while unattended. Their burns were widely scattered all over their bodies and were repaired with numerous skin grafts. As all their burns were below their shoulders, they easily concealed them with their clothes. The youngest sister was born just a year after the tragic accident.

When I first met them, the sisters seemed rather ordinary, with all 3 sisters being single or divorced and living at home with their mother. But as I got to know the family better, it became obvious that there was a dark family secret lurking about. The first sign was a missing father, who left the family 14 months after the accident and just 2 months after the birth of his youngest daughter. The youngest daughter, who was by far the most attractive, was often mistreated by all three of the remaining family members. It was like watching Cinderella, except this was real! My friend used her sister like a slave girl, while paying her with cruelty. One day, when the mother was away, I was invited to cook for all three sisters and all five of their children. I was working at the sink when I turned on the hot water and heard the pipes making an awful groaning sound. The sound came from the basement one floor below me and on the opposite side of the house. The noise was continuous and appeared to be traveling up the water pipes toward the kitchen. Fearful I took a few steps away from the sink, but my curiosity kept me from turning off the water. When the noise finally reached the sink, steaming water burst from the faucet. The water temperature had to be 180 or maybe even 190 degrees! Stunned, I turned off the water, called to my friend, and told her I was going downstairs to adjust her mother’s hot water heater. Not waiting for her reply, I proceeded down stairs to the laundry room. Just about the time I made it past the door, I could hear my friend screaming something as she ran down the basement steps. But it was too late; I had discovered the family secret.

There in the laundry room, in the corner where the water heater surely was, were built two walls, identical to the rest, extending from floor to ceiling, with no means by which to enter the tiny room that enclosed the very same water heater, that 20 years before had burned my friend and her sister. My friend cautiously entered the laundry room as if she were entering the Holy of Holies, and began to tell me the story of her family’s secret. After the accident, her father blamed her mother for not watching the kids and the mother blamed the father for never adjusting the water temperature. A great guilt and bitterness grew between them, so they chose to “solve” the problem through avoidance. Rather than admitting his failure to fix the hot water heater before the accident, the husband built walls around it, “Out of sight, out of mind!” The wife chose to simply stew in her emotions and forever forbid any conversation on the subject. Yet a short time later the wife found that she was pregnant again, which was the husband’s last straw. He deserted the family, leaving the four women to fend for themselves. But the mother’s unresolved guilt caused her to favor her two older daughters, while leaving her youngest child without love or affection. My friend and her sister simply followed the example set by their mother and treated their youngest sister with contempt. The youngest sister, starving for love and approval, ran away when she was only 13 years old, to live on the streets of Chicago. For 5 years her family didn’t know if she was alive or dead. She survived being raped several times and was forced to give up her first two children for adoption. Strangely enough, because of her guilt from loosing her first two kids, she treated her other three the same way she was treated by her mother. Sometimes secrets get passed from generation to generation.

It all finally made sense to me. I could see the motivation behind all the strange behavior and vile treatment. I could see the cause of all the bitterness, anger, and deep rooted and excessive emotional needs. I could understand why none of the 4 women could maintain a relationship or develop a healthy lifestyle. A single secret, because it was not dealt with biblically, was a shaping influence that snowballed into 20 years of divorces, abortions, fornications, and even self deceptions. Only the Lord knows that family’s spiritual condition at the time of the accident. But there was no reason to believe that any of them were saved. Yet some of them confessed to be Christian and were seen by the world as worshipers.

But what does any of this talk of secrets have to do with your church, your family, or even you?

For your church my two fold message is simple.
First and foremost, a little leaven leavens the whole lump. I will not disgrace these pages with the hundreds of accounts of Protestant ministers, teachers and laymen who have been arrested for every form of evil committed inside the walls of a church. Thinking it can’t happen at your church, makes it that much more an appealing target for such a person looking for some religious camouflage. But continual repentance clears the eye and mind to see what so many others do not. Your church must remain pure end ever vigilant to cull any chaff that might seek a foothold as members in your church.

Second and equally important, is the summation of “good and faithful servant” that, hopefully, we will all receive. However, just to be sure, it’s a quick test, so why not take it? Could the deepest secret recesses of your heart be characterized as “Good”? Would your daily service to the Lord, which should be given with ALL your heart, soul, mind and strength, be described as faithful and consistent? And as a meager, humble, servant, only doing as you should, who are you serving, the Lord or yourself?

So how did you do?

Either way I praise the Lord. If you were truthful and did poorly, then you can join my group and vow to improve this year, not only through grace, but by taking responsibility to work out you own salvation. If you were truthful and did well, then I applaud you and the Holy Spirit who has worked this out in you.

But if so many in the American church passed this test, if so many of us are “good and faithful,” why is our country failing spiritually, why is our church body suffering, why are our marriages falling apart and why are most of our ministries prospered by just a few people or even single individuals? A three strand cord is not easily broken, and two have a better reward for their labor, but one alone is a hard row to till.

The Bible says a wise man loves rebuke, and I love the people in the American church beyond measure, but is it wise to concentrate so hard on the things we do right, that we become ignorant to the obvious things we do wrong? Let this year be the year that we have all things in common, and sell our possessions and share the proceeds with those in need. Let this year be the year we as Christians meet together continually and share everything we have, meeting in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and sharing our meals with great joy and generosity, all the while praising God and enjoying each other’s goodwill. Let this be the year we plant, water and watch each day as the Lord adds to our group, those who are being saved.

For your family my message is simple.
Satan desires to sift your children. But he doesn’t have to crouch at your door anymore, because he created Nintendo and he’s on the radio, and he’s beamed right to your satellite dish, and he’s at the video store, and he’s on the other side of your computer monitor. Just because you don’t see the evidence, doesn’t mean that Lucifer hasn’t made it into your home already. He has ample weapons to divert the minds of your children away from Christ. So what are you doing, not just to protect, but to arm and enable your kids for this battle they will someday face alone?

A short time ago an acquaintance invited me over to work on his 16 year old daughter’s computer that was having significant virus problems. As I fixed the last virus I asked him if he wanted to know what his daughter was doing on the internet. Surprisingly he said no, because he thought it was an invasion of his child’s privacy. I asked if his daughter earned such privacy through years of observed appropriate use. He said he doesn’t monitor his daughter’s use of the computer because “she is a good kid who wouldn’t use it for that!” “Then why does she delete files that track and log internet use?” was my response. His daughter has a secret, and as her father, how could he appropriately lead her spiritually without basic knowledge her activities? His mind changed, we found that his daughter did a good job of covering her tacks, but sin is sloppy and soon the files were recovered.

As a parent, do you actually know what is running through you children’s minds? Perhaps not, but today it is easier than ever to monitor the evidence. So many parents I meet hand there kids a computer with a dvd player, 4 tv-vcr remotes, an X-Box, a cell phone with built in camera, an .MP3 player and satellite radio and they wonder why their kids walk away from the faith as soon as they leave home.

Do yourself and your kid’s soul a favor. Once a week, take a look at the things your kids play with, you might be amazed at what you find. If you don’t know how, e-mail me, and we will kick Lucifer out of your kid’s computer, but his mind is up to you.

And for you my message is simple.
Sometimes the greatest challenge is to look at that big honking huge log in your eye and admit you can’t see. Frankly, I am sitting over hear watching and it looks pretty painful. I am just trying to help you by begging you, please, please, repent already, before that thing rips a hole in your head! But don’t get me wrong I ain’t no saint, my boss just gave me the worse review of my life, and the more I think about it, the more I realize I was robbing God. I was supposed to be working for my boss as though I was serving Christ, but there were many days last year when I just didn’t feel like working. So now I have nothing to show for a year of work except for a story, but don’t tell anyone because it’s my little secret.

Brother Terry Walker
Providence Baptist Church
Greer, South Carolina