When Life is Dark and Heaven is Quiet

Posted byBryan LowePosted inbelieverdarknessdiscipleshipencouragementfollowing JesusGodlife lessonsSatantheologyunderstandingTags:discipleshipGodJesuspromisestestingtrialsunderstanding

God’s people have always had to wrestle with the things from the dark.  As believers, the Bible tells us that we’re in a permanent state of war against Satan. There has never been an armistice or treaty signed to my knowledge.  Each one of us is on the front lines.  The devil has been practicing with a deadly form of “spiritual terrorism.”  And he terrorizes many with his posturing and manipulation.

Life can get quite dark, and desperately bleak. No one needs to educate us about the dark nightmare that is now active. Over a couple of millennia, God’s covenant people have been harmed and harassed.  Enemies are constantly manipulating and twisting God’s Word. As disciples, we’re under steady surveillance by the dragon.

Sometimes heaven is silent. But I believe it is never, ever disinterested.

But He certainly has not overlooked us.  As we read our Bible, our faith becomes like Teflon.  Nothing can stick to you; even though so much is thrown at us.  When life is really dark or terribly bleak, we can protect ourselves and others. There are times when we can sense nothing.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

We are not theologians, we are just simple disciples.  He knows this.  I believe He simplifies things in order to help us understand. God has little reason to complicate things for us.

I believe that we are “surrounded” by saints of all ages.  They see in us a faith that justifies us.  And I must admit, that helps me.  I am part of a continuum.  I now know that my simple faith must always pass the test of discouragement.

But now the torch is passed, and now you must run with it faithfully and honestly.  And when all is so dark, and things seem far too quiet, I still intend to hold up that torch and carry it all the way to my Father’s house.

“There was a castle called Doubting Castle, the owner whereof was Giant Despair.”

John Bunyan, “Pilgrims Progress”

I don’t know

I feel the most unsettled when I’m uncertain about the future.Many of you are also probably facing circumstances that have left you feeling caught off guard and unsure about what tomorrow holds. So many times I find myself bracing for impact when I check my daily news feed. If there’s one word that seems most certain to describe the times we are living in, it’s “uncertain.”There are thousands of scenarios that evoke these feelings of uncertainty, fear and exhaustion from life not being like you thought it would be.Whatever your situation, you probably feel like you can’t change it, but you still have to live through the realities of what’s happening right now. Sometimes you just have to walk in your “I don’t know.” The Lord makes it clear in His Word that things will not always go as we wish they would in this life. The crucial detail for us to have peace in the middle of everything we face is to stay close to the Lord. We think we want comfort in the “I don’t know” times of life. But comfort isn’t a solution to seek; rather, it’s a byproduct we’ll reap when we stay close to the Lord.I wish I could promise you that everything’s going to turn out like you’re hoping it will. I can’t, of course. But what I can promise you is this: God is close to us even in our “I don’t knows.” God has lessons for us that are crucially important for our future, and we’re learning them in the middle of our “I don’t knows.” God has a strength He must prepare us with, and the training ground is here in the “I don’t know.”This time isn’t a waste, and it’s definitely not pointless when we are walking with God. Let’s cry out to God, declaring that this hard time will be a holy time, a close-to-God time. And let’s choose to believe there is good happening, even in these places. We can rest in the knowledge that wherever God is, good is being worked.-What difficult “I don’t know” season are you walking through today?

Lysa TerKeurst

PROVERBS 31 MINISTRIES

Six reasons why we shouldn’t worry

1. It’s fruitless.
2. It’s disobedience.
3. It’s taking what is not yet given.
4. It’s refusing the given.
5. It is the antithesis of trust. If you trust, you can’t worry.
If you worry, you can’t trust.
6. It is a wicked squandering of time and energy.

~ Elizabeth Elliott Quotes

In Memoriam – Victims in the Oakland Fire

My note: Because we live in the area, I think this nightmare has affected us more than maybe some of you. Nonetheless, I am sure as you read this memoriam, and look at these beautiful faces, you will be unable to not feel it personally.

These victims were going to, or teaching in, schools in the Oakland Area, as I understand it. One of the victims was a student of Professor Chris Johnson at California College of the Arts. (My daughter graduated from CCA, and Professor Johnson has had a major influence in her life, and ours.)

Tragedy occurs when one least expects it. I imagine these victims were either living in this warehouse, or attending the party. I can envision them…artists, musicians, students, and educators–immersed in their life’s dream, creativity running rampant, determined to pass on the gifts they had been given by sharing their unique ability to see the world just a little differently than most.

Our hearts are aching for the losses their families and friends are feeling. Our prayers are covering all of them.

Let us remember these people–their names, their faces. We will keep them in our hearts forever.

 

Oakland Fire Victims

  • askew
    CASH ASKEW
  • emb
    EM B
  • bernbaum
    JONATHAN BERNBAUM
  • barrettclark
    BARRETT CLARK
  • cline
    DAVID CLINE
  • danemayer
    MICAH DANEMAYER
  • dixon
    BILLY DIXON
  • dolan
    CHELSEA DOLAN
  • ghassan
    ALEX GHASSAN
  • gomez-hall
    NICK GOMEZ-HALL
  • gregory
    MICHELA GREGORY
  • hoda
    SARA HODA
  • hough
    TRAVIS HOUGH
  • igaz
    JOHNNY IGAZ
  • jo
    ARA JO
  • kellogg
    DONNA KELLOGG
  • kershaw.jpg
    AMANDA KERSHAW
  • lapine
    EDMOND LAPINE
  • madden
    GRIFFIN MADDEN
  • matlock
    JOSEPH MATLOCK
  • mccarty
    JASON MCCARTY
  • mcgill
    DRAVEN MCGILL
  • mendiola
    JENNIFER MENDIOLA
  • morris
    JENNIFER MORRIS
  • pines
    FERAL PINES
  • plotkin
    VANESSA PLOTKIN
  • Wolfgang Renner
    WOLFGANG RENNER
  • ruax
    HANNA RUAX
  • runnels
    BENJAMIN RUNNELS
  • siegrist
    NICOLE SIEGRIST
  • sylvan
    MICHELE SYLVAN
  • tanouye
    JENNIFER KIYOMI TANOUYE
  • vega.jpg
    ALEX VEGA
  • wadsworth
    PETER WADSWORTH
  • walrath
    NICK WALRATH
  • wittenauer
    BRANDON “CHASE” WITTENAUER

 

Worried Enough to Pray?

by Max Lucado
Last week’s blog struck a nerve. I wrote a piece entitled “Decency for President.” The premise was a simple one. Shouldn’t a presidential candidate who claims to be Christian talk like one? When a candidate waves a Bible in one speech and calls a reporter “bimbo” in the next, isn’t something awry? Specifically, when Donald Trump insists that he is a Christian (“a good Christian” to use his descriptor) and then blasts, belittles, and denigrates everyone from Barbara Bush to John McCain to Megyn Kelly, shouldn’t we speak up?

If the candidate is not a Christian, then I have no right to speak. But if the candidate does what Trump has done, wave a Bible and attempt to quote from it, then we, his fellow Christians need to call him to at least a modicum of Christian behavior, right?

Again, I struck a nerve. More than three million of you read the article in the first 36 hours! Thousands of you weighed in with your comments. They were fascinating to read. (Not all of them pleasant to read, mind you. The dozens of you who told me to stick to the pulpit and stop meddling in politics– I get it. By the way, I’d like to invite you to attend our services. My upcoming message is “Kindness”.) Detractors notwithstanding, your comments were heartfelt and passionate.

I detected a few themes.

You have a deep sense of love for our country. Patriotism oozed through your words. You cherish the uniqueness and wonder of the USA. You have varying opinions regarding leadership style, role of government, and political strategy. But when it comes to loving the country, you are unanimously off the charts.

You have an allergy to “convenient” Christians. You resist people who don the Christian title at convenient opportunities (i.e., presidential campaigns). You would prefer the candidate make no mention of faith rather than leave the appearance of a borrowed faith that will be returned to the lender after the election.

You are concerned, profoundly concerned, about the future of our country. The debt. Immorality. National security. The role of the Supreme Court. Immigration. Religious liberty. The list is as long as the worries are deep.

So where does this leave us? When a person treasures the country, but has trepidation about its future, what is the best course of action?

Elijah can weigh in on this question.

He lived during one of the darkest days in the history of Israel. The Northern Kingdom had 19 kings, each one of whom was evil. Hope had boarded the last train and optimism the final flight. The leaders were corrupt and the hearts of the people were cold. But comets are most visible against the black sky. And in the midst of the darkness, a fiery comet by the name of Elijah appeared.

The name Elijah means, “My God is Jehovah.” And he lived up to his name. He appeared in the throne room of evil King Ahab with a weather report. “‘As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word’” (1 Kings 17:1).

Elijah’s attack was calibrated. Baal was the fertility god of the pagans, the god to whom they looked for rain and fertile fields. Elijah called for a showdown: the true God of Israel against the false god of the pagans. How could Elijah be so confident of the impending drought? Because he had prayed.

Eight centuries later the prayers of Elijah were used as a model.

“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops” (James 5:16-18).

James was impressed that a prayer of such power came from a person so common. Elijah was “a human being” but his prayers were heard because he prayed earnestly. This was no casual prayer, comfortable prayer, but a radical prayer. “Do whatever it takes, Lord,” Elijah begged, “even if that means no water.”

What happened next is one of the greatest stories in the Bible. Elijah told the 450 prophets of Baal: You get a bull, I’ll get a bull. You build an altar, I’ll build an altar. You ask your god to send fire; I’ll ask my God to send fire. The God who answers by fire is the true God.

The prophets of Baal agreed and went first.

“At noon Elijah began to taunt them. ‘Shout louder!’ he said. ‘Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.’

“So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention” (1 Kings 18:27-29).

(Elijah would have flunked a course in diplomacy.) Though the prophets cut themselves and raved all afternoon, nothing happened. Finally Elijah asked for his turn.

“Then Elijah said to all the people, ‘Come here to me.’ They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the LORD, which had been torn down. Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, ‘Your name shall be Israel’” (1 Kings 18:30-31).

Elijah poured four jugs of water (remember, this was a time of drought) over the altar three times. Then Elijah prayed.

“LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command.   Answer me, LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again” (1 Kings 18:36-37).

Note how quickly and dramatically God answered.

“Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, ‘The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!’” (1 Kings 18:38-39).

“Pow!” the altar was ablaze. God delighted in and answered Elijah’s prayer. God delights in and answers our prayers as well.

Let’s start a fire, shall we?

If your responses to my blog are any indication, you are anxious. You love this country, yet you are troubled about the future. You wonder what the future holds and what we can do. Elijah’s story provides the answer. We can pray. We can offer earnest, passionate prayers.

It’s time to turn our concerns into a unified prayer. Let’s join our hearts and invite God to do again what he did then; demonstrate His power. Super Tuesday, March 1, is the perfect day for us to step into the presence of God.

Dear Lord,

You outrank any leader. You hold sway over every office. Greater is the occupant of Heaven’s throne than the occupant of the White House.

You have been good to this country. You have blessed us in spite of our sin and guarded us in spite of our rebellion.

We unite our hearts in one prayer. Let your kingdom come. Let your will be done. Please, speak through the electoral process to reveal your leader.

This we pray in the name of Jesus,

Amen

© Max Lucado
February 29, 2016

God’s Agape Love

Paul reminded the church at Corinth the kind of love Christ offers to us– Agape love that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.” Don’t we need the same prescription today? Don’t groups still fight with each other? Don’t we flirt with those we shouldn’t? Aren’t we sometimes quiet when we should speak?

Someday there will be a community where everyone behaves and no one complains. But it won’t be this side of heaven. So till then we reason, we confront, and we teach. But most of all we love. Such love isn’t easy. Not even for Jesus. Listen to his frustration in Mark 9:19: “You people have no faith. How long must I stay with you? How long must I put up with you? How long? Until it kills me!  Jesus bore all things, believed all things, hoped all things, and endured all things! Even the cross.

From A Love Worth Giving
A-Love-Worth-Giving

Loving Like God Loves

 

Need more patience? Is generosity an elusive virtue? Having trouble putting up with ungrateful relatives or cranky neighbors? God puts up with you when you act the same.

Luke 6:35 says, “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.” Can’t we love like this? Not without God’s help we can’t. Our relationships need more than a social gesture. Some of our friends need a flood of tears. Our children need to be covered in the oil of our love.

But if we haven’t received these things ourselves, how can we give them to others? Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us that apart from God, “the heart is deceitful about all things.” We need help from an outside source. A transfusion. Would we love as God loves? Then we start by receiving God’s love!

~ Max Lucado

From A Love Worth Giving
A-Love-Worth-Giving

Sowing Seeds

Many parents aren’t proud of their family trees. The harvest was taken, but no seed was sown. Childhood memories bring more hurt than inspiration. If such is the case, put down the family scrapbook and pick up your Bible. John 3:6 reminds us, “Human life comes from human parents, but spiritual life comes from the Spirit.” Your parents have given you genes, but God gives you grace.

Didn’t have a good father?  Galatians 4:7 says God will be your father. Didn’t have a good role model?  Ephesians 5:1 says, “You are God’s child whom He loves, so try to be like Him.”

You cannot control the way your forefathers responded to God. But you can control the way you respond to Him. The past does not have to be your prison. Choose well and someday—generations from now—your grandchildren and great-grandchildren will thank God for the seeds you sowed!

From When God Whispers Your Name

~ Max Lucado

Letting Go

 

 

Serenity prayer 71114

(Photo of the Pacific Ocean along the Hwy 1 California Coast)

~ ~ ~

I’ve been having a rough time lately learning the lesson of “Letting Go”.

From time to time, I feel I already “know” this lesson.

But then I turn around and realize, “Letting Go” is a daily thing.

The subject of the “Letting Go” project changes,

but the lesson is always the same.

I have to let go to the right person —

and that is My Lord.

The latest lesson was to go to the Serenity Prayer

and repeat it until I let go of whatever is controlling my life.

I hope these words help someone

who is going through the same lesson.

~ Sharon