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

The Power of Broken Prayers

Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, author and co-founder of The Bible Study Club

How do you approach God and people when your faith is small, when you can’t believe and when you wonder if God is even listening?

That’s why I want to encourage you today to pray broken prayers. Consider this passage in Luke:

“While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’ Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ And immediately the leprosy left him” (Luke 5:12-13).

There was something about this man that I think you can relate to. He was broken by life because he was a leper. We are not sure how he caught leprosy, but nevertheless he had it and it was a terrible disease. To be a leper in those days was to be an outcast. I will spare you the details of the horror of this disease, but beyond the physical pain and suffering there was the mental pain and suffering because no one wanted to be around you. Lepers were shunned and people thought they were cursed by God and their leprosy was a result of their sin. Some scholars say a leper couldn’t come within six feet of any other Israelite and within 150 feet if there was an east wind blowing (I guess this was the original form of social distancing).

In our story, this leper comes to Jesus. He was sick, probably in pain, and shunned by the outside world. In one word he was broken. In his place of brokenness he cried out to Jesus for help and Jesus responded.

How Does This Apply to You?

There are usually two ways we end up in positions of brokenness or helplessness. In one instance you are doing everything right. You are living right. You are giving right. You are serving. You are following God, obeying his word and doing everything you are supposed to do – and all of a sudden you get hit with life, leading you to a broken place. 

On the flip side, maybe you are doing everything wrong. You’ve made a series of bad decisions and choices and your life feels like it’s falling apart. Everything is breaking down around you and you don’t know what to do. You too are in a broken place. 

You see, it does not matter how you got there, you end up just like the leper. Whether it’s by your own fault or no fault of your own, you are in this place of desperation and brokenness. What do you do?

The Power of the Broken Prayer

What I love about this story is the way the man came to Jesus. He came and threw himself at his feet. He came humble. He came honest and he came broken. He didn’t even pray what would be considered a faith-filled prayer. He said Lord, if you are willing. In essence he was saying I know you can, I just don’t know if you will.

His prayer was not coming from a place of expectation, it was coming from a place of desperation. In other words, he came to Jesus just as he was. Unclean, rejected, desperate, broken and out of this place he cried out to Jesus. He was offering what I would consider a broken prayer, yet this prayer had much power in it.

Lessons from This Broken Prayer

1. Come to Jesus Just the Way You Are 

Too often we make the mistake of thinking we have to come to Jesus with everything right. The same mask we wear into church on Sunday morning we take into prayer and into the presence of God. If I could encourage you with one thing let it be this. Stop thinking you have to always have it all right. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to have your faith right, your worship right, you have to pray the right words and when you do then God will hear you. That is not what God responds to.

You can come to Jesus just as you are, broken and all, with the mask off and pour your heart out to him. Broken prayers aren’t perfect prayers, but they come from a place of humility and honesty and that is exactly what God wants. 

Psalm 51:17 – “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.”

2. God Doesn’t Only Respond to Our Faith, He Also Responds to Our Brokenness 

There is something amazing in this story of Luke that if you read too fast you will miss. Before Jesus healed him, he touched him. Remember this was a man who was shunned by society. Who knows how long it had been since someone had touched this man?

Before Jesus addressed his obvious physical need for healing, he addressed the less obvious emotional need to be touched. We already mentioned earlier that this man did not pray a prayer of great faith, yet Jesus responded. This tells me that God not only responds to your faith, he responds to your brokenness as well. Jesus could have healed the man first and then touched him, but he didn’t – he touched him first.

That is why it’s ok to come just as you are. Don’t worry about having everything all neat and buttoned up, God will respond to your broken condition.

3. When You Touch the Heart of God, It Will Move the Hand of God

Luke 5:13b – “’I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ And immediately the leprosy left him.”

I believe the reason why Jesus moved in this man’s situation is because this man touched his heart. When you touch the heart of God, it will move the hand of God. You must also be mindful of something. When you pray broken prayers, sometimes God will change the situation instantly which is what happened here. However sometimes the situation may remain the same, but he will change you instantly. At the place of brokenness, you are laying it all down and asking God to move on your behalf as he sees fit. The beauty of the broken prayer is that you may come to God broken, but you will walk away whole.  

If you are sick you may walk away healed, but even if God doesn’t heal you, walk away whole.

If you are discouraged you will walk away encouraged.

If you come with no faith you walk away believing God to do great things in your life.

If you come with no joy you walk away with joy unspeakable and full of glory.

If you come with no peace you walk away with peace that passes all understanding, even in the midst of brokenness. 

The beauty of the broken prayer is that God takes it, strengthens you and gives you the confidence to know that God is going to bring you through. 

Final Thought

I don’t know what feels hopeless, broken, or desperate in your life today. I do know that if you will pour it out humbly and honestly, God is waiting to touch you, heal you and restore you. You are reminded from Scripture to cast all your cares upon him because he cares for you. The situation you are in today matters, and Jesus is waiting with open arms to touch all the broken places in your life. However, it begins when you take the mask off and begin offering up those broken prayers.

A Call to Love

If there was ever a time when we are called to show an extraordinary display of love for God and each other, it is now. I’ve been questioning what we as Christians are doing to show love during these hectic times.

Reading the following scripture, I tried to put a filter in place to determine whether modern-day Christianity actually survives the test of Jesus’ definition of love. Let’s read this together and ask the Holy Spirit to help us answer that question.

The Great Commandment

 Matthew 22 (English Standard Version)

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together.

35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”

 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 

This is the great and first commandment. 

39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 

40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Along with these scriptures, we would be remiss not to read and understand God’s further definition of love.

1 John 4:20 (English Standard Version)

20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.

So, let’s ask ourselves:

  1. Do we treat everyone with this kind of love? Does it matter whether they have the same color of skin as ours, speak with the same language that we use?

2. Are we prejudiced in any way?

3. Do we encourage hate of any person?

4. Do we support bullying?

5. Do we reach out and pick up the peaceful person that was just beaten down–by fists or guns–or words? Or do we join in?

6. Do we judge a person by whether they are poor, or not?

7. Do we act out, in any way, with disdain, judgmental thoughts or actions, or do we try to understand a person who is different from us? who may have a different religious affiliation? a different way in describing their belief system? Or do we think that we are the only people who have all the answers?

8. Do we agree that requiring servitude by anyone is ok? is loving? is the way Jesus would treat people?

I think this is a somber time in all of our lives when we should quietly sit and reflect on these questions. If we fall short of the definition of love as Jesus describes it, we have an imperative to go to Him and ask forgiveness, turn away from that wrongful attitude, and humble ourselves as we seek God’s guidance in remedying our actions. That way He will be glorified rather than being ashamed of us.

Are we really Christians?

If we don’t display the love and light from our Lord, then we should stop using His name–in vain!

Your sister in Christ,

Sharon

To one Jewish professor, Martin Luther King Jr. was a mensch

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marches with other civil rights leaders — from left, John Lewis, an unidentified nun, Ralph Abernathy, Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Bunche, Heschel and Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth — from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, on March 21, 1965. Credit: Courtesy of Susannah Heschel

January 16, 2017 · 10:00 PM EST
By Lidia Jean Kott

Susannah Heschel was just a child in the spring of 1965, when her father left for Selma, Alabama, to march with those demanding that everyone be allowed to vote regardless of their skin color.

“He kissed me goodbye,” says Heschel. “And I remember thinking ‘I don’t know if I’ll ever see him again.’”

Just a few weeks earlier, many demonstrators had been brutally attacked by police officers on a day known as Bloody Sunday.

Heschel’s father returned safely. But the experience left an impression.

“My father came home feeling like it was a religious event,” says Heschel. “He said, ‘I felt my legs were praying.’”

To Heschel, and her family, the religious aspect of the Civil Rights Movement is an important part of the story, even if it’s not talked about as much.

That’s because Heschel is a professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College.

And her father, Abraham Joshua Heschel, was a rabbi.

Heschel’s father was born in Poland and lost several members of his family to the Holocaust. He was able to escape and come to the US, where he became an activist.

A calling, according to Heschel, with a lot of historical precedent.

“Jews came to the United States at the turn of the century from Russia, and there were Yiddish newspapers that would report in screaming headlines that there were Pogroms here in the United States. And what did they mean? Lynchings,” says Heschel. “Jews were outraged by that. How could that be? Russia is one thing but in the United States? So there is a long tradition of rabbi’s speaking out against segregation.’’

Heschel believes that, in part, the Civil Rights Movement became so powerful because everyone felt included, regardless of their religion.

“If you look at Dr. King’s major speeches, he doesn’t talk about Jesus, he doesn’t make this an exclusively Christian event,” says Heschel. “That openness, that embrace of Jews meant so much to my father.”

The night before he joined the march, Heschel’s father stayed in the same house as King and a few others. This house, which belonged to Sullivan and Richie Jean Sharrod Jackson, became an informal headquarters for activists.

Heschel later spoke to Richie Jean Sharrod Jackson about the night her father stayed there.

“Mrs. Jackson told me she got up in the morning and went into the living room, and there was Dr. King standing in one corner of the room saying his prayers, and my father was in another corner of the room saying his morning prayers, and there were a few others in the dining room praying,” says Heschel. “That to me is such a central concept of the Civil Rights Movement, coming together in that way, each one praying in their own faith tradition, in a different part of the house.”

Even as a kid, Heschel says that she felt herself to be surrounded by heroes. Heroes like her father, other friends and activisits, and King.

“He was always so gentle and kind and friendly to me,” says Heschel. “There were times at the end of lectures when I’m sure he was tired and just wanted to relax, and yet he was so generous and sweet.”

Now, says Heschel, she often goes back and listens to King’s speeches. Speeches that made her cry when she was younger.

She credits King with teaching her about “how to be a human being, how to be a mensch in the world,” and helping set her on her life’s path.

“I became a professor of religion because of him,” she says.

Note: “mensch” means “a person of integrity”.

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

DON’T STROLL THROUGH THE SWAMP

“You’re gonna regret it!” I waved away the warning without turning around. What was to regret? I took the shortcut.

I was on my way to a picnic. The tables sat on the other side of a marsh. The parks department had kindly constructed a bridge over the marsh. But who needed a bridge? I ventured in. The mud swallowed my feet. Squiggly things swam past me. I think I saw a set of eyeballs peering in my direction. I backpedaled—flip-flops sucked into the abyss. I exited, mud covered, mosquito bitten, and red faced.

I walked over and took my seat at the picnic table. It made for a miserable picnic, but it makes for an apt proverb. Life comes with voices. Voices lead to choices, and choices have consequences!

~ Max Lucado

From God’s With You Every Day

Are you ready to march?

Think about the Christian you want to be. What qualities do you want to have: more compassion…more conviction…more courage? What attitudes do you want to discontinue: greed…guilt…endless negativity? With God’s help you can! You can close the gap between the person you are and the person you want to be. Indeed, the person God made you to be. You can live “from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

To inherit your inheritance is God’s vision for your life! Imagine the thought. You as you were intended. It’s a life that is yours for the taking. You can expect to be challenged. The enemy won’t go down without a fight. But God’s promises outweigh personal problems. Victory becomes, dare we imagine, a way of life. Isn’t it time for you to change your mailing address from the wilderness to the promised land? Are you ready to march?

~ Max Lucado

We are the World! Happy New Year!

Praying for blessings to all of you around the world. May we all come together to find what is best in each of us. Love surely is better than hate. Working together, standing together, loving together will make the difference. If you are upset about something, find your voice. Go on Twitter, Facebook, start a Website, care and share positive ideas and progressive thinking instead of crying in a corner. We can all light the place where we stand and that light will shine enough to change things.

Be blessed with much love, joy, and happiness!

Sharon & Erick

We are the world!

There comes a time when we heed a certain call
When the world must come together as one
There are people dying
And its time to lend a hand to life
The greatest gift of all

We can’t go on pretending day by day
That someone, somehow will soon make a change
We are all a part of Gods great big family
And the truth, you know,
Love is all we need

We are the world, we are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So lets start giving

Why I love Christmas

When Christ was born, so was our hope! This is why I love Christmas. The event invites us to believe the wildest of promises! He did away with every barrier, fence, sin, bent, debt, and grave. Anything that might keep us from him was demolished.

He only awaits our word to walk through the door. Invite him in. Escort him to the seat of honor, and pull out his chair. Clear the table; clear the calendar. Call the kids and neighbors. Christmas is here. Christ is here. One request from you, and God will do again what he did then. He’ll scatter the night with everlasting light. He’ll be born in you.

Let “Silent Night” be sung! Every heart can be a manger. Every day can be a Christmas.  The Christmas miracle—a yearlong celebration! ~Max Lucado

The Heart of the Human Problem

The sinful nature is the stubborn, self-centered attitude that says, “My way or the highway.” The sinful nature is all about self: pleasing self, promoting self, preserving self. I have a sin nature! So do you. Under the right circumstances you will do the wrong thing. You’ll try not to, but you will. You have a sin nature. You were born with it. The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart!

Christmas commemorates the day and the way God saved us from ourselves. The angel speaking to Mary in Matthew 1:21 says, “. . .you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Each of us entered the world with a sin nature. God entered the world to take it away!

~ Max Lucado