There were no stirrings, no sound, nor movement of any kind.  The angels were bowing low in deep mourning, even the fierce warring angels who perpetually stood at attention, were in shock, and with heads bowed. The eternal music vibrating throughout Heaven’s magnificent halls suddenly came to a halt. The brilliant lights which eternally arc over Heaven’s vast domes suddenly were dim. The verdant gardens with their vast blooming floral were weeping and drooping low. Heaven was for a moment in silence, with all present feeling abandoned and forsaken. The loss was indescribable. No earthly language can even remotely describe it, no artist can depict it. Jesus Christ, the Monarch of Heaven, the Son of God, had just been crucified by unjust men and seemingly forsaken by a most Holy and just God.  At this moment, all hope seemed lost.  This was the cost of redemption.   God had offered-up His Son, Heaven’s jewel, to redeem mankind. This plan was birthed in eternity past, and it remained a mystery to men, to angels, and to devils—until it was accomplished.  When Adam fell, Lucifer rejoiced with seeming assurance that mankind now belonged to him, not knowing, nor understanding the hidden mystery of God’s eternal love. For God had yet another concealed plan—the mystery of the ages—to redeem mankind, by the forfeiture of His Son’s life, versus that of saving it, in contrast to natural man.  It was not possible for Lucifer to even remotely understand the mystery enveloped in this kind of sacrificial giving; for he knows only the art of taking, stealing, or snatching-away what belongs to others.  His capacity to steal, kill and destroy contains strategies which defy the keenest minds of natural man.  He is a master of deception. He is very artful in choosing not to places his clutches upon losing battles.  All deception, whether it manifests in the market place, the church, in families or otherwise, is influenced by the master deceiver.  It is therefore critical that we vigilantly hold every thought captive, to be filtered by the mind of Christ (II Cor. 10:4-5).  Peter’s terminally embarrassing example of this reality should serve lesson to us all, as, just moments following Christ’s affirmation that “upon this rock” (Peter) He will build His Church (Matt. 16:18); He then strongly rebukes Peter, saying, “Get thee behind me Satan!”  (Matt. 16:23).  We too can be deeply rooted and grounded in love in one moment, and be led about by a godless thought in the next.  There is an inherent need in each of us to be known as being rightly focused, rightly positioned and  incapable of erroneous decisions.  This is often a subtle conspiracy to save our natural lives, and at great cost to others; when the natural life must die, that Christ in us may live. To confess our frailties before men, that others might live, is not an inherent quality that man possesses; it must rather be cultivated, by allowing Christ to rule and reign in every cavern of our hearts. It means a willingness to be taken advantage of, to be shunned, misunderstood, falsely accused, or slandered.  It is what we often fear the most; and it readily reveals insecurities which must also be taken captive, and submitted to Christ, that He may further crucify our flesh.  Fear is the fabric that builds walls; love is the fabric that tears them down.  How is it that we may walk in a measure of love which prevents walls of insecurity from being built?  Some of history’s greatest trophies among men have been those who also suffered some of the greatest losses. Much of Paul’s writings which we have today came out of a dark Roman dungeon where he was left all alone, condemned, forsaken, never to return to a normal life. But it was in that place of persecution that he kept pouring-out his life for his people and for the nations. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). Within this verse alone, we may see what the Father has accomplished and revealed to us through His Son (John 15:15). The magnitude of this promise cannot be measured. Why are we not also emulating this model, this Christ-likeness? Is it not the fear of exposure? The fear of being found out? (Num. 32:23). Years ago, when the Amish bishops throughout the land threatened to place a ban on me, great fear engulfed me.  My name had already begun to precede me as being that of a universal deceiver among the Amish and even some Mennonites.  The agony of forever losing all that was near and dear to my heart was crushing. The life that I had known, and all that I had beheld to date was taken, and was brutally blotted out of my life. Friends and foes alike forsook me; even my father’s family, wherein I was still bound with many obligations. God left me but one choice; I would either choose Him, or the will of the people, who were actually stalking me at the time. What was my crime? It was my love for God, His commandments, and His people (John 14:15-16).  I was given a choice of remaining in the light and the truth as I received it from Him in the beginning, or to fall back into the dark hole of legalism and idolatry (John 3:19-21). The cost of this choice meant losing everything—my ministry, my hopes, houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, friends, lands; and the despair of not knowing where to turn or where to go (Mark 10:29-30).But even in this place of despair, God revealed to me that the problem remained me, and not the people around me. I began discovering that my forgiveness toward these adversaries was superficial, and not from my heart. This discovery shocked me, and it left me woefully undone, for I did not possess such capacity to forgive on this level.  But my acknowledgement alone ushered-in the grace to do so. Only then could God take over and fulfill what man could not do. In Him, are we enabled to fulfill our mandate to live the crucified life—a lifestyle of forgiveness.  Every ounce of man’s attempt to walk in such must be taken to the cross, whereupon grace is received to extend authentic forgiveness.  In ultimately finding unconditional forgiveness for my accusers, I was then free to pronounce God’s blessings over them.  As I began pouring out these blessings over my people, it began breaking down historical walls of division, as well as strongholds in the form of curses (Matt. 5:44).  My life and my salvation given to me at the onset of my walk, is intimately tied to the entire Anabaptist Nation. I cannot think in terms of saving myself, apart from my people (Rom. 9:1-3). For without their salvation my life has been lived in vain.  The love that we are called to walk-in has no boundaries, and it cannot fail (1 Cor. 13:8a).  It is tested by adversity, and is permitted a continual flow only by grace given from God.  All of the accusers, persecutors and hangmen placed in our paths; as well as the difficult situations strewn about our paths are His doing, and they are woven into our lives for our testing, cleansing, and purifying. He will patiently wait, until He can see His full reflection in us (Malachi 3:3).To those who choose to walk in the measure of love demonstrated by the Sacrificial Lamb of God; these will hear the heartbeat of the Father—a heartbeat which reveals His good pleasure in seeing His perfect work accomplished in you.  As you fully yield to His perfect work in your life, in and through all that you face in the form of trails and persecution, understand that even as this New Year unfolds, you are given a promise in the form of Psalm 65:11:“The year has been crowned with a bountiful harvest, even the hard pathways you walk on will overflow with abundance.”

Ben Girod  

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