Tag: darkness

The Closet

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It seems like the world is all geared up for house cleaning. Do you know what I mean?

When I was a teenager, my little brother, who is nine years younger, had a messy closet. From time to time I had the chore of “helping” him clean it out.

You wouldn’t believe the things we’d find in the closet.

Toys, socks, books, more toys, and lots of miscellaneous articles of clothing.

By the time “we” were finished, the closet would be nice and neat, but the bedroom would be a wreck.

Kind of like today.

The closet is getting cleared out, but now the junk is everywhere.

Quite frankly, I think it would have been just fine for the closet to stay messy.

But that’s not how people are.

We like to think we know best about everything. We’re happy with our choices, especially if we can get everyone to agree with us.

So instead of peeking into our closet full of questionable and messy things, we take the closet door off its hinges so everyone can see what we’ve allowed to grow in the dark room.

Only now, and unlike my chore of years ago, rather than properly disposing of the junk and odd socks, people expect everyone else to applaud the mess they’ve made.

They parade their closet junk in front of everyone, just daring someone to tell them it’s wrong.

They want people to affirm their closet lifestyle as the norm.

But you know what? I’m not going to affirm the closet stuff as good, or normal, or the way God made them.

Why? Because it isn’t the norm.

It’s only the mess from the closet.

Can God Be Trusted In The Dark?

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Why does our faith vacillate so much when life changes on us? When the sun disappears behind dark and threatening storm clouds?

We say we trust the Lord, that he is able to do anything, yet we become a nervous wreck when things don’t go as planned. We say he’s good (all the time) but act as though he’s not. We declare we can do everything through Christ who gives us strength, but complain the moment we feel the slightest bit of trouble.

We are quick to say, “Amen”, when the preacher speaks about Jehovah-Jireh, the God who provides. But when we can’t see a way out of our situation we want to rag on the preacher!

Why?

Maybe it’s because we don’t really know God as well as we say we do. Or, maybe we are too absorbed with our own little kingdom, rather than the kingdom of God. Possibly it’s because we don’t understand a basic truth about God.

God reveals himself against the backdrop of lack, trouble, and death. His handiwork is easier to see when the sky is dark and stormy. His signature is much more noticeable when the cupboards are bare. Paul said it this way:

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV)

God used 4 lepers to rout the whole Syrian army. 2 Kings 7

He provided a ram for Abraham to sacrifice, rather than his son. Genesis 22

Defeated the army of Moab after he told the Israelites to dig ditches. 2 Kings 3

Fed 5,000 plus with only the food found in a little boy’s lunchbox. John 6

Made a borrowed axe head float and swim, as Elisha tossed a stick into the water. 2 Kings 6

When the earth was created, he used things unseen to make all that can be seen. Hebrews 11

Killed 185,000 enemy soldiers with one angel. Isaiah 37

Remember: when circumstances scream “impossible”, that’s when you’ll hear God speak the loudest…

“Here I am.”

Why Do People Choose Darkness?

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…the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light…

Darkness versus Light. The battle of the ages.

But how could there possibly be any real battle, when light is immeasurably more powerful than darkness? The smallest flicker of light has darkness trembling with fear.

Both darkness and light are tenacious and competitive.

And eternal.

If one can understand darkness…

Darkness uses its mysterious ways to lure and entrap. It boasts of hidden treasures, obscure facts, and shrouded meaning. It advertises the unknown and entices the inquisitive; the curious to venture past the warning and danger signs, beyond the rope separating the shallow end of the pool with the deep. It bids each of us to its eternal lair.

Darkness calls to the skeptical, the doubtful, and the unsettled one, “Come, ask, seek, knock, explore.” But darkness never reveals, never fulfills, never completes the enigma. It’s like a giant puzzle without a solution. Like a maze in which, when entered, one is lost forever.

Darkness dwellers who have adjusted to the world of shadows tell of all the wondrous things to behold. In the darkness. In the fog. Things which can’t be seen for what they truly are.

People become accustomed to darkness.

In the land of darkness there are no rules about coloring within the lines, no boundaries or fences with “No Trespassing” signs posted, and no defined right or wrong. Darkness keeps the shades drawn and the curtains closed over the windows of one’s soul.

It promises happiness, but cannot deliver contentment. Intimacy is touted as a product of darkness, yet intimacy without light is impossible.

Darkness is the land of groping, of stumbling, of half-truths and fuzzy images. It is the place of the hope-so’s, the want-to’s, and all the misconstrued ideas about light.

But if one can really understand light…

Light never entices, it simply reveals.

God is light. In his light we see, we know, we experience true intimacy. With God, with one another, and even with ourselves. We can know as we are known.

Light came into the realm of darkness and conquered it using only three things.

Wood, nails, and truth.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:1-5 ESV)

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 ESV)

“…God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5 ESV)

With only a decision one can step from darkness to light.

But darkness still promises a world of pleasures and treasures, though light reveals what darkness really is, what it truly contains.

Darkness is the absence of light. The absence of truth, revelation, and real intimacy. It is the place of broken promises; temptation without fulfillment.

A story to be read, without any words.

No meaning, no future, no life. No God.

So why do so many people choose darkness? Is it because they can’t see, can’t hear, can’t know?

Which have you chosen?

Dance The Night Away

20130519-213754.jpgEver had a day that seemed a month long? A night that would never end? How about sorrow that only deepened, never giving up, for months and years?

An old song by Leo Thayer, “You make me feel like dancing”, jumped to the forefront of my mind yesterday. The phrase, “gonna dance the night away”, seemed to have the touch of God on it. It’s a corny song, the falsetto singing is hard listening to, and I’m really not into dance music; but there’s a truth in the “dance” phrase God wants us to catch.

“Night” represents darkness, and “dance” is related to joy, or an expression of joy. Many times, during periods of sorrow and grief, the thought of dancing is the farthest thing from our mind. What we’re most comfortable with during those seasons, and what we’d much rather do is lock ourselves away in the dark somewhere, curled up in the fetal position, chewing on our lip, and wishing we didn’t have to face another day.

Despair, night, and spiritual darkness are each related to the other, and have the ability to smother the life out of a person. Their nature is to flood a person’s thoughts and feelings with ideas of everything that could possibly go wrong. It’s like living in a small, crowded room with no windows, and little by little the walls move closer and closer until there’s absolutely no room left, and no way out. And though there’s ALWAYS a way out, it’s usually not seen because of the spiritual darkness pervading the mind of the despaired one. They PERCEIVE they are trapped, and the perception becomes their reality.

But God has something much better for you and I. It’s called JOY!

Despair forces you and I into a small dark corner, but God’s joy releases us to enjoy wide open spaces!

“He reached from on high, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy and from those who hated and abhorred me, for they were too strong for me. They confronted and came upon me in the day of my calamity, but the Lord was my stay and support. He brought me forth also into a large place; He was delivering me because He was pleased with me and delighted in me.” (Psalm 18:16-19 AMP)

So what should a person do when the nighttime of despair begins to close in on them? Call upon the Lord and start dancing! By faith, act on the word of God and release the power of joy! If necessary, dance on the ceiling and the walls, like Fred Astaire did in the movie, “Royal Wedding”.

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Dance the night away! Away from you, from your loved ones, from your situation! Dance the night – AWAY!

You don’t feel like dancing? Then begin to tap a toe. Tap it by faith; faith in the love and ability of God Most High! Then tap the other one, shuffle your feet, shake a hip, swing an arm, AND DANCE THE NIGHT – AWAY!

Say it out loud: “God, You make me feel like dancing; I’m gonna dance the night – AWAY“!

“Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing.” (Exodus 15:20 ESV)

“And David danced before the Lord with all his might…” (2 Samuel 6:14 ESV)

“As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before The Lord…” (2 Samuel 6:16 ESV)

“Let them praise his name with dancing…” (Psalm 149:3 ESV)

“Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe.” (Psalm 150:4 ESV)

” A time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3:3-4 ESV)

“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.” (Psalm 30:11-12 ESV)

“For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (Psalm 30:5 ESV)

Joy comes in the morning, and “dancing”, releasing joy, drives the night away! Night leaves, morning comes, and joy prevails!

Dance!

What Do We Really Expect?

20130502-141303.jpgWhy do we, as Jesus followers, act so surprised, and even mad, when the world doesn’t treat us like their own?

What do we really expect? What do we really want?

Have we forgotten something Jesus said?

“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you. They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the one who sent me. They would not be guilty if I had not come and spoken to them. But now they have no excuse for their sin. Anyone who hates me also hates my Father.” (John 15:18-23 NLT)

No one likes to be hated. No one enjoys being rejected or persecuted.

But what can we really expect?

We can’t win their love or appreciation by acting like them; not and stay connected to the Spirit who sets us apart!

We cannot divide our allegiance between the two kingdoms. We belong to one or the other.

Friendship with the world is equal to war with God.

God so loved this world He gave His best for it. But He didn’t compromise with it. His love could change the world, but not if His love was compromised.

God’s love is for others first and foremost. The world’s love is for themselves, first and always!

God hates things because of their destructive, hellish affect on others. The world hates things that inconvenience, embarrass, or somehow affect their own lives.

So why are we surprised to find the world doesn’t really appreciate our input, much less our presence?

Tell you what I’m going to do…I’m going to love the world as God does. I’m going pray for them like Jesus does. I’m going to speak truth like The Spirit of truth does.

And I won’t be surprised when they don’t throw a party in my honor.

Four Anchors

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Now when the fourteenth night had come, as we were driven up and down in the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors sensed that they were drawing near some land. And they took soundings and found it to be twenty fathoms; and when they had gone a little farther, they took soundings again and found it to be fifteen fathoms. Then, fearing lest we should run aground on the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern, and prayed for day to come.
Acts 27:27-29 NKJV

Paul’s journey to Rome, with its storms, treachery, shipwreck, and rescue, would make a great movie! But just in case that doesn’t happen for a while, there is something in this story I must tell you about.

The ship and all 276 people aboard had just endured almost 2 weeks of stormy weather. It had been so bad, many had feared for their life. Now things were going fairly smooth, other than they had no idea where they were.The sailors were extremely cautious at this point. Traveling at night, they relied largely on their experience and gut feeling to alert them of possible danger. About midnight, the crew sensed they were drawing close to land. To know for sure, they took soundings (using a line with a lead weight on the end, they measured the depth of the water) a couple of times. They discovered land was fast approaching and the ship was in danger of colliding with the shore. So, to avoid the collision and disaster, they lowered four anchors and waited for the sun to come up.

Everyone has gone through, is going through, or WILL go through, storms. Each person runs the risk of becoming shipwrecked, or even worse, destroyed, as a result. But as the story illustrates, God shows us a safe way to travel, to keep from destroying ourselves and others, even through the toughest times. And though a lot of storms are not our fault, just knowing where to place the blame doesn’t help the situation.

Have you ever been overtaken by a storm? No warning, not a clue anything was brewing. It happens all the time. It was happening on Paul’s ship. The soldiers weren’t aware of danger, the prisoners (outside of Paul) didn’t really care – they were probably as good as dead, anyway. But someone on Paul’s ship with life experience recognized the possibility of impending danger; and the experience became the wisdom necessary to avoid certain disaster. Even in the dark, where it was impossible to see, the experienced ones knew what to do until they could see the issue for what it was. And in each of our lives there’s someone with the experience and wisdom to help us know how close danger is and what to do until revelation comes.

The sailors (experience and wisdom) said, “Drop four anchors and we’ll wait for the sunlight.” Light, daylight, sunshine, all speak of revelation knowledge. God, opening the eyes of their understanding, allowing them to see things from His perspective and with His wisdom.

“Drop four anchors…” Four anchors to hold them in place, to keep them from drifting, from wandering; giving them stability until the next step for action could be discerned.

In our life’s journey, these four anchors are extremely important. They help us stay in place and not drift when we can’t see what’s around us. Something that gives us stability and helps keep us from drifting. These four anchors are:

1) Hear the truth – “So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it.” Hebrews 2:1 NLT

Don’t trade the weighty anchor of truth for something that is only fluff. The anchor of truth can smash our foot if we drop it there, but it will also keep us from being blown about by every wind of doctrine.

2) Hope – “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast…” Hebrews 6:19 NKJV

The hope of God’s promises is an anchor for our soul – our mind, our will, and our emotions. As our soul is anchored, we have greater confidence to go boldly to the Throne of Grace. Encouragement.

3) Helpful Friends –” Faithful are the wounds of a friend…” “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. ” “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up.” Proverbs 27:6,17; Ecclesiastes 4:9,10 NKJV

Friends – people who love us enough to tell us the truth AND walk with us during dark moments. People who will help us with our resolve and be there through the restoration process.

4) Holy Spirit – “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.” John 16:7-15 NKJV

The Holy Spirit KNOWS what’s going on and WHY it’s happening. He will guide us INTO ALL TRUTH. He will guide us OUT OF ERROR. This anchor will keep us from turning around.

Life’s a crazy, dangerous journey at times. We all need people speaking into our lives who have the experience, wisdom, and love to help alert us to possible danger. We must listen to them, and not push them aside when we don’t like what they say.

If you’ve been running through life without these four anchors, I encourage you to stop now and secure the anchors you’ll need. Because you WILL need them.
Keep the anchors within reach, for when the slightest “drift” is detected, it’s time to act.

Arise and Shine

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Light always overcomes darkness. God has caused His light to shine in us, through us, so it is time for us to ARISE AND SHINE! We do not have to fear the darkness – it has to fear us!

When light invades the darkness, one of two things must occur. The darkness will either FLEE or BE CHANGED into light!

Rise up, man and woman of God!

Arise, shine; For your light has come!
And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the LORD will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Lift up your eyes all around, and see: They all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be nursed at your side (Isaiah 60:1-4 NKJV)

Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever (Daniel 12:3 NKJV)

For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6 NKJV)

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it (John 1:4-5 NKJV)

…that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world (Philippians 2:15 NKJV)

The LORD bless you and keep you; The LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace (Numbers 6:24-26 NKJV)
Arise and shine as His Glory shines through you!

The Master Plan… my short story

Jan and Phyllis2It was a dark and dreary night, which seemed to last a lifetime.

In fact, it was lasting a lifetime. The first 20 years of my life.

Darkness and chaos describe my early years. Oh, sure, there were glimpses of light and order, hope and joy, now and then. But dreariness described my life as a whole.

Kind of like when “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”. There wasn’t a sign in the heavens inviting change. No. Darkness, disorder, decadence, and dismay screamed constantly at Him and His plans, “We cannot, will not, be changed. We will forever remain like this!” That seemed to describe my life.

But, the entrance of His Word brought light; and the rest, they say, is history.

I had times, as a kid, really enjoyed my life and thought things were great. Like the times we’d have the neighborhood over and play ball in our backyard. Kids everywhere, running, laughing, without a care in the world. Or the time the ice cream truck would come down the street, beckoning us with its happy tune. All the neighborhood kids would stop what they were doing, run to find their parents, and literally beg them into buying a Buried Treasure, Drumstick, or some other sweet and cold treat. Ah, the good old days.

There were a few times of hope and joy as a teenager, but those years were primarily filled with strife and unrest. Not much hope for the future. No promise of life, that I could see anyway. Have you ever known someone who seemed to be okay and in great health, but was really losing a battle with cancer? That’s how my life was. Looked alright on the outside, but inside I was dying. If something happened I didn’t like, couldn’t control, or attacked my vulnerable heart, I would pack up and leave. I tried fighting back, but eventually concluded leaving was the best way to preserve what life I had.

A few people told me about this Man named Jesus. Fairytale stuff, as far as I was concerned. Besides, I didn’t need religion. Darkness and chaos were serving me just fine. It was something I was used to.

When I was 17, darkness seemed to ease up a bit. I met this girl who began to love me; darkness, chaos, hurt and all. I was so energized by her, hope for the future began to grow. Plans for a life together were forming. Buying an old “Bread Truck” decorated with colorful flowers, travelling the country, playing music, seeing the sights, living the dream, became known to us as “The Master Plan”.

We finally did get married and started living the Plan. No bread truck, just a cool 1964 Rambler Classic 770 named “Roger”. Life was but a dream, sh-boom, sh-boom.

Something happened during our second year of living our dream. I can’t really explain it. I only know we met this couple who had a “light” shining in their life. Love and life seemed to exude from them, attacking the darkness surrounding us; as though God was looking at our world, commanding His light to shine in our dark places.

Light be! Light was!

“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” “He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of Life.”

That was close to forty years ago. Never did get a bread truck. We have done some traveling, played some music, lived a few dreams, had a few nightmares. But we discarded the Master Plan. Traded it in for something full of love, life and hope. A future and a hope! We call it “The Master’s Plan.”

And the rest is, as they say, His Story.

If darkness and chaos has filled your life, there is a God in Heaven Who knows how to change your world.

“The Times They Are A-Changin”

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The Times They Are A-Changin’
Lyrics by Bob Dylan

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin’.
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin’.
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin

Words and music by Bob Dylan

The times they are a-changing. That’s a word The Lord keeps speaking to my heart. Changing times. Dividing times. Light getting brighter and darkness becoming darker. Gray areas turning lighter or darker, but not staying the same. The middle ground is diminishing. In or out. Up or down. Right or wrong. Heaven or Hell.

The times they are a-changing. Changing, becoming, turning to the final chapter of the Redemption Story. The Story of love and fellowship between God and man. The Story of how fellowship was broken, but love never was. The Story of love giving itself to redeem and restore the broken fellowship. God’s eternal purposes finally completed.

The times aren’t changing just because God wants to do something new. After all, it’s not new to Him. No, He’s just bringing things to a close, so He can then open all of Heaven and Eternity for His Redeemed and Restored Family.