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 New Hope!

 Disappointed with the political scene? Discouraged in your job? Find age creeping up behind you? Life not what you expected it to be? Take heart! There is no shortage of hope in Jesus! New Hope.

When Peter wrote his first letter to the fledgling churches, the situation looked pretty dark. They had been waiting thirty-five long, hard years for Jesus to return as He promised. Yet every day they searched the sky and every day life on earth continued to grow worse.

Under the heel of the Roman government, the tax rate for working people was 50 percent of income or higher. Corruption, bribes, and kickbacks were a part of daily life. Everyone from the priest to the local tax agent had their hand out for a share. The sex trade flourished for both males and females. Children and adults were bought, sold, used, and there were no laws against it. There was violence in the streets; political and religious intrigue on every corner, and death and disease inside the homes. Over one-fourth of all children died before the age of two and life expectancy for the average person was 50-55 years.

This was the kind of world in which early Christians lived. It was the world Peter faced when he wrote his letter about the goodness of God and encouraging those who were beginning to buckle under the pressure of daily living. Peter was certain of his hope. It was a new hope that that hadn't been alive in the previous generation. It was the hope Jesus gave.

The hope that carried Peter along was grounded with two anchors. Both were firmly planted in Jesus. The first anchor was in the past, "God...has given us" and the second was in the future as a "hope that lives on" (I Peter 1:3). Between these two, unmovable realities Peter could live without despair no matter how many years it took before Jesus came again.

The anchor of the past involved Peter's memories. He remembered Pentecost and rehearsed it's reality over and over again in his mind. That was the day new life from God was born in his soul. It was a real, concrete event he could never forget.

Peter's second anchor was the continuing reality of Jesus' life. He knew that long after the taxes, governmental corruption, long work days, sickness and sadness were gone, Jesus would still be alive. It hadn't ended at Calvary. There was Easter, too. Jesus was a living hope that time could not dim and death could not kill.

There is new hope for us, too. If we have experienced the reality of Jesus in the past, we must recall those events and not let them slip. Those realities remind us Jesus is still alive and because He is, our hope lives, too.

 Are you discouraged? Fearful? Empty? Remembering how we have experienced Jesus in the past and reminding ourselves that He still lives are two anchors that will hold us firm regardless of how fierce the storms of evil blow.



Has God Forgotten Us?

Do you ever feel forgotten? Perhaps it is personally forgotten as a mate ignores your needs while seeking their own pleasure. Perhaps it is socially forgotten as the culture changes and your values are regarded as archaic or irrelevant. You may even feel spiritually forgotten as God seems distant or even uncaring. There are few emotions more painful than feeling disregarded, alone, put aside. Forgotten.

Yet despite the individual nature of the pain, feelings of being forgotten and forsaken are common. The Bible frequently addresses that troubled state. Sometimes it is an individual crying out and sometimes it is a whole nation that moans, "God has forgotten me."

There are few Bible chapters filled with more comfort than Isaiah 49. Restoration, hope, new beginnings and promises roll one after another through the verses. Yet, right in the middle of all that assurance and hope and promise, Israel cries out, "The LORD has forsaken me,/ And my Lord has forgotten me." [1] It is a complaint that is jarring as it interrupts free-flowing praise. Doubt is thrown into the midst of triumph and tears are splashed over joy. The comment is so out of place that one would assume the next words from God would be censure or anger. Not so.

God doesn't reprimand or balance the complaint with a gripe of His own. Instead, there is pity and deep sympathy. We can almost hear Him whisper as tears fall, "Oh, no, no, dear one. I have never forgotten you!"

While God never used those exact words, they seem to permeate the next two verses as He goes on to give an example that even the hardest heart among us can understand."Can a woman forget her nursing child, / And not have compassion on the son of her womb? / Surely they may forget, / Yet I will not forget you. / See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands." [2]

Only weeks after my husband was killed leaving me a widow at thirty-five, my sister fashioned a ceramic figurine and gave it to me. The sculpture was of a man's wrist and upturned palm. Standing by the wrist and resting over on the palm was the figure of a little girl. Around the cuff of the man was written Isaiah 49:15 & 16. My Sis wanted a physical memorial to remind me that no matter how I felt at the moment, God remembered me. He could never forget because He had engraved me on the palm of His hand. It was a gift of love that brought me much courage in those first difficult months.

I will ask again. Do you feel forgotten personally, socially, or even as a nation? Perhaps it is time to read Isaiah 49 once more. God never forgets something that is engraved upon His hand.

[1] Isaiah 49:14
[2] Isaiah 49: 15 & 16


Do You Ever Feel Afraid?

Back in graduate school they taught us fear was one of the most basic of all human emotions. Some scholars even believed it to be the core motivation for ALL emotion, action, and decision. We love because we are afraid of being alone. We work because we are afraid of going hungry. We worship because we are afraid an unseen deity would punish us if we don't.

     I have thought a lot about their theories and must admit much of what they say is true. Fear is a major part of life. No one is exempt. We may not exist in a constant state of fear, but given the right circumstance that dark cloud can be on us in an instant. As long as we are in this world, there will be no escape from the reality of fear.

     That could be very bad news because the Bible admits that fear has torment. [1] But God also has many other things to say about fear and torment doesn't get the last word. When fear creeps in close, squeezing our mind and heart until we can scarcely breathe, these other statements become powerful weapons. Fears may still be present, but they can no longer torment because they no longer have control.

     In Psalm twenty-three David said the solution to fear was to know (feel, understand, grab hold) the presence of the Lord. [2] Paul carried that same theme when he wrote, "For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, 'Abba! Father!'" [3] When we fill our heart with the truth that our Abba (Daddy) is the Creator and Sustainer of the whole universe, fear takes a back seat to a greater reality.

     Are you feeling afraid today? Do you feel threatened by the nation's debt, rising crime, or financial collapse? Perhaps your fears are more personal. Do you fear being left alone, or your sins being exposed to others, or illness? Do you fear for your children or your spouse? There are plenty of reasons all around to make us panic or cringe in a corner and shake.

     Yet, when anything disturbs our peace a Christian has a rock, a refuge-Jesus, Immanuel, God with us. What to push back your fear? Remember Him. Consider Him. Sing of Him. Read about Him. Talk to Him. Practice the presence of Jesus when fears are small and the habit will become your shelter when storms are violent and real. He is the One who promised, "Peace I leave with you. [...] Let not your heart be trouble neither let it be afraid. [4] The best solution to fear is setting our mind on our immediate reality then filling that space with so much Jesus, fear has only a small corner in which to stand.

 [1] I John 4:18 [2] Psalm 23:4 [3] Romans 8:15 [4] John 14:27

  

Do You Ever Feel Depressed?

"Slough of Despond" is how John Bunyan described the feelings in The Pilgrim's Progress.While those old fashion words may take a little explaining, I can think of no better way to express the heavy, dark burden we now call, "depression." A "slough" is a quagmire or bog; a place of mud, undrinkable water, heat, and blood sucking insects. We get our word "despondency" from "Despond." It is to feel hopeless, dejected, gloomy, and useless.

     Walking through a "Slough of Despond" is like laboring to cross a swamp while thick mud sucks down every step and no map offers hope that solid ground will ever be reached. I've spent time in such a bog. Perhaps you have, too. These frustrating swamps seem to be an unavoidable byproduct of life on earth. And, as strange as it may seem, Jesus even spent time slogging through these same dismal miseries. He described His emotions in Luke 12:50 as being "constrained," "longing," and "greatly distressed" as He waited for time to pass and the next item on God's agenda to fully come.

     Emotions like these are painful and certainly not something we would seek. However, the feelings themselves are not sinful. Sin only takes root when we allow the feelings to lead us into wrong mindsets or wrong actions. When despondency becomes bitterness, or difficult times become an excuse for wallowing in self-pity, or not seeing an immediate path out of the swamp leads us to doubt the promises, ability, or goodness of God, then our depression is shifting gears and morphing into something God hates. On the other hand, if we assume every painful and/or negative emotion is sin, we will never leave the swamp because false guilt and personal loathing will become a backpack driving us deeper into the mud.

     The writer of Hebrews struggled to instill new hope into discouraged readers. One way he accomplished this was to remind them that Jesus, "was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin," and that is why our Lord can "sympathize with our weaknesses." [1] When it comes to knowing what it is like to walk through a swamp yet not give into sin, Jesus deserves to wear the tee shirt, "Been there; Done that." We can bring him our confusion without fearing condemnation. We can experience depressed feelings without giving into hopelessness because we know He went through the swamp before us and we can trust Him to lead us back to solid ground.

 [1] Hebrews 4:15-16


Do You Ever Feel Guilty?

Running late the other day, I whipped up the street of our small town, spun a u-turn, and parked crooked with my tail lights sticking a good two feet into traffic. No problem. There was still room for cars to pass. I would only be a moment.

     Of course, my "moment" stretched further than I intended and when I dashed back to the curb our constable stood by my driver's door tapping his notebook. "Yours?" he asked, glancing at the keys in my hand. I was caught. I deserved a ticket and I knew it. I was guilty.

     There are two kinds of guilt. The first we might call "legal" guilt and the other "emotional" guilt. At that moment, I had both.

     Legal guilt indicates a violation of some kind of standard. Occasionally, someone may grieve purely because they have broken a standard but this is not usually the situation. It's far more common for us to squirm because we are caught and feel the eyes of our judge staring down. It is not our concern for the law, but concern for us that makes our cheeks turn red. Yet, in either case (feeling much or feeling little) the fact of our legal guilt remains.

     Emotional guilt is a different animal. It may spring to life in perfect proportion to the standard we have violated: Serious standard, big guilt; little standard, small guilt. But, far more often our emotional guilt comes to us completely off balance and twisted free from the moorings of legal guilt. We either hang on to shameful feelings long after the incident is past or our hearts become so calloused we feel little emotion and breeze past situations that ought to drive us to our knees in repentance.

     For my parking violation, I was mildly embarrassed and quickly admitted the truth of my guilt. I spoke more than the constable and promised I would never again knowingly park illegally in the town of Pittsburg. He let me off with only a warning, but my vow is a promise I intend to keep. Even if I am running late. I still feel a twinge of embarrassment, but I'm certain as the months pass and I keep my parking promise the feelings of guilt will fade.

     The incident reminded me of how different my life is now than twenty (or forty!) years ago. Back then, I felt guilty for taking up space on planet earth! Distant relative not saved? I should have witnessed more. Sin committed as a teen? The whole world probably knew and would talk about it forever. Prideful personality? God hates pride and me to boot. Less than perfect thought life? It's my fault for not depending constantly on the Spirit. The list could go on and on and on. Past sins, present shortcomings, even hazy feelings of being guilty, on trial, and condemned just because I breathed! It was a very miserable existence.

     Then, I found John 1:9 and although I had to repeat the words hundreds and hundreds of times (no exaggeration!) their truth finally sank down into the deepest part of my spirit and slowly freedom came

     John assured readers, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from unrighteousness." (ESV) When we do one thing, God agrees to do two. When we confess our violations of His standard, He not only forgives us for those things we named, He cleanses us from the internal gunk we didn't name and could not see. He removes ALL unrighteousness.

     Once the scripture got hold of my heart, I made a commitment to only confess sins I could specifically name. I also committed to NEVER confess the same sin twice. He said He forgave me when I confessed. If I confessed a second time, I was accusing God of lying. However, as I worked daily on keeping short records with God, I found plenty of fresh sins to bring before the throne and soon didn't have room to worry about old ones anymore!

     It took about two years of consistent effort but slowly my emotional guilt and legal guilt came into balance. Eventually, the good feeling of being cleansed from ALL unrighteousness began to hang around. Today, serious violations bring serious emotional consequences and small violations only twinges of regret, yet both have solution and neither clings to me like unwanted leeches.

     Struggling with guilt today? Try taking John 1:9 seriously for yourself. Sooner than you think, you may find living guilt free to be a surprisingly good place to

 

Do You Ever Feel Tempted?

It doesn't happen often but once in a rare while I'll read a scripture then groan in my Texas drawl, "Brother, you flat got that one right!" One Bible passage that squeezes out this grudging agreement is Hebrews 12:11. "No discipline seems pleasant at the time. Instead, it's painful!" [1]

     I hardily agree with that statement. And, I find it especially true when the discipline must be self administered! Every time I'm pulled in a wrong direction, then grab myself by the scruff of the neck and jerk my rebellious flesh back on the path, I moan. I know the end results will be good. Later. But for that moment it feels like sand under my eyelids and thorns between my toes.

     Well, maybe not quite that bad. But close.

     The situation could be anything from the necessary discipline of food, to the discipline of money, to the discipline of time, to the woeful need to discipline my mouth, but any time I must say no to self and yes to a higher cause, it hurts. And when it does, I'll admit to occasionally wishing Jesus would just take care of the temptation and give me a free ride. I want God to make me skinny and healthy without dieting. I want enough money without budgeting. I want the only demands on my time to be those I choose. And, as for my mouth, can't He sanctify that without my effort?

     The answer is yes He can. But, most of the time, He won't. God has chosen us to partner with Him in pushing back the tide of evil in this world. We partner in prayer. We partner in ministry. And, we partner in choosing what is best for our body and mind to do-even when it hurts.

     Jesus openly told His followers about the price of following Him. Matthew, Mark and Luke all record it. [2] "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." Daily. Deny himself. Discipline. Not comfortable!

     But, it is safe and in the end successfully dealing with our temptations will produce "the peaceable fruit of righteousness." [1]

     One of Jesus' last prayers to His father was that His followers not be taken out of the world, but be kept safe from Satan and all his schemes. [3] Right in the middle of this broken, fallen, messed up world, Jesus wants us to remain safe. Not safe from trouble or pain-Jesus wasn't spared that and neither will we be spared-but safe from being overpowered by Satan or tricked by his deceptions. And, a large part of that safety depends on our willingness to exercise the power He gave us to choose.

     Jesus wants us to win. Indeed, the Almighty plans and expects us to win. The Bible assures us that if we will resist the devil the ol' serpent will flee. [4] When we say no, one of the most powerful beings in God's creation turns tail and runs. I can't begin to explain how God's sovereignty works with our free will. Or why my decisions should matter in the great scheme of things. I only know that no matter how painful resisting temptation might be, yielding to it is far more painful and far less satisfying in the end than any temptation I might enjoy for a season.

     Because all of these things are true, continuing to resist temptation is the best possible choice I could make. Even if it hurts. Even if I fail temporarily. I'll just sing another chorus of "Onward Christian Soldiers," back my ears like a stubborn mule and begin the chore again.

 [1] Author paraphrase.   [2] Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23   [3] John 17:15   [4] James 4:7

 

Do You Ever Feel Discouraged?

Our race of faith was never designed to be a sprint. It's more like the longest marathon in history. As a Church, we've been waiting over two thousand years for Jesus to return. And, as individual Christians, we often spend years or even a lifetime waiting on the answer to specific prayers. It is important to remember this because when we forget the long-haul nature of our journey discouragement is never far behind.

     Bible writers knew this. Paul told us not to grow weary while doing good [1] and the writer of Hebrews repeatedly warned about the danger of giving up too soon. They knew Christians were going to need endurance if they would finish their journey with hope still blazing strong. [2] The Psalmist told us to wait on the Lord. [3] Even Jesus warned those who started following Him with high expectations to be careful that they didn't look back when the way got rough or allow themselves to become unproductive as the weeds of the world choked out their fruit. [4]

     I suspect discouragement has always plagued Christians, but in this generation of speed and instant gratification, I think it is a bigger problem than ever. Borrowing a cliché from Superman we could say life is "faster than a speeding bullet." When I first became a counselor in the early 80s we studied the "generation gap" because the world parents had known was very different than the one experienced by their children. But when I retired fifteen years later articles were being written about the "sibling gap." Culture and technology changed so quickly that children born only a few years apart and living in the same household were each experiencing a substantially different world.

     All around us change and shift is pushing from every side. If something can't be microwaved or electronically transmitted or done by the end of the week, we consider it "slow." Our world is not just revolving, it is spinning like a top. When prayers go unanswered for months and spiritual issues are not resolved in years, we are aghast. What is wrong? Why doesn't God get with it?

     The book of Hebrews was written about 40 years after Jesus left earth. For the church, they had been forty long, difficult, persecuted years that tried their faith. Discouragement settled in. Jesus said he was coming back, but where was He? Why was it taking so long?

     Responding to the weary disappointment of many Christians, the writer reminded them of the example Jesus set while on earth. [5] God's own son yielded Himself to suffering and waiting even though He did not always understand the reasons why. [6] Jesus did not receive everything He prayed for instantly. [7] And, when He didn't, perhaps He even remembered words learned as a boy in Synagogue school. "Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait I say, on the Lord." (Psalm 27:14)

     Waiting on the Lord is never easy, yet from Abraham to Sarah to Rahab to David we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses who would encourage us to never surrender ourselves to discouragement because experiencing adventure with God is well worth any wait required. [8]

[1]. Galatians 6:9  [2] Hebrews 10:35-36  [3]. Psalm 37:14  [4] Matthew 13:22; Luke 9:60-62  [5] Hebrews 2:9  [6] Matthew 27:46  [7] Matthew 26:39  [8] Hebrews 11

 

Has God Forgotten Us?

Do you ever feel forgotten? Perhaps it is personally forgotten as a mate ignores your needs while seeking their own pleasure. Perhaps it is socially forgotten as the culture changes and your values are regarded as archaic or irrelevant. You may even feel spiritually forgotten as God seems distant or even uncaring. There are few emotions more painful than feeling disregarded, alone, put aside. Forgotten.

Yet despite the individual nature of the pain, feelings of being forgotten and forsaken are common. The Bible frequently addresses that troubled state. Sometimes it is an individual crying out and sometimes it is a whole nation that moans, "God has forgotten me."

There are few Bible chapters filled with more comfort than Isaiah 49. Restoration, hope, new beginnings and promises roll one after another through the verses. Yet, right in the middle of all that assurance and hope and promise, Israel cries out, "The LORD has forsaken me,/ And my Lord has forgotten me." [1] It is a complaint that is jarring as it interrupts free-flowing praise. Doubt is thrown into the midst of triumph and tears are splashed over joy. The comment is so out of place that one would assume the next words from God would be censure or anger. Not so.

God doesn't reprimand or balance the complaint with a gripe of His own. Instead, there is pity and deep sympathy. We can almost hear Him whisper as tears fall, "Oh, no, no, dear one. I have never forgotten you!"

While God never used those exact words, they seem to permeate the next two verses as He goes on to give an example that even the hardest heart among us can understand."Can a woman forget her nursing child, / And not have compassion on the son of her womb? / Surely they may forget, / Yet I will not forget you. / See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands." [2] 

Only weeks after my husband was killed leaving me a widow at thirty-five, my sister fashioned a ceramic figurine and gave it to me. The sculpture was of a man's wrist and upturned palm. Standing by the wrist and resting over on the palm was the figure of a little girl. Around the cuff of the man was written Isaiah 49:15 & 16. My Sis wanted a physical memorial to remind me that no matter how I felt at the moment, God remembered me. He could never forget because He had engraved me on the palm of His hand. It was a gift of love that brought me much courage in those first difficult months.

I will ask again. Do you feel forgotten personally, socially, or even as a nation? Perhaps it is time to read Isaiah 49 once more. God never forgets something that is engraved upon His hand.

 [1] Isaiah 49:14  [2] Isaiah 49: 15 & 16

 

 


 
The Shadow of the Almighty

Many years ago our family ran a hay-bailing business. I would not go back to those years, but I also know without them I could never have understood the value of shadows. Hour after hour through the searing heat of Texas summers, mile after monotonous mile, I guided the tractor in circles while the sun blasted down. A shadow meant rest and hope for a moment of peace. It was a place I could go away from the battle of the day.

When working summer ripe fields, shadows become notable and even longed for, events. Every worker watches the huge oak standing alone at the far side of the meadow and judges exactly where its shadow will fall as the hours pass. Canteens of water are hung in the branches and everyone waits for noon when machinery stops, hats come off, and a brief moment of relief is provided by the shadow. Even the shadow of a cloud is welcome as it scuttles across the face of the sun. For a moment its shadow blocks the oppressive heat and a thin whisper of cool breeze can sometimes be sniffed as it passes over head.


        There are times when the Bible uses the word shadow to illustrate something dark or frightening. Like when David said he walked through the valley of the shadow of death. But far more often the concept of shadow is something comforting. Often, it is connected with the presence of God.


     Isaiah said he found comfort and protection in the shadow of God’s hand (Isaiah 49:2) and in the worst of times he encouraged people to know God’s presence would soon be a shadow from daytime heat, refuge for the weary, and a shelter from storm (Isaiah 4:6). David knew what it was like to work the fields. He wanted everyone to trust and rest under the shadow of God’s wings (Psalm 36:7). He personally rejoiced in the shadow and its shelter assured him God cared (Psalm 63:7). All questions might not be answered and mystery might remain but in the hiding place of the shadow, David found rest (Psalm 17:8). A different psalm writer picked up the same theme reminding us there were secrets in the shadow of the Almighty and some of them could only be understood by those who found their dwelling in its shade (Psalm 91:1).


     Shadows not only contain secrets and testify of rest and shelter they also indicate change is coming. Lengthening shadows tell us the day is passing and the end of labor is at hand. The shadow of a cloud says the weather is changing. Seeing a shadow on the ground will cause us to turn because we know something new has come near. How much we value shadows is often directly correlated with how ready we are for change. That is why shadows are especially welcome when things are not going well or we are weary of the status quo.


     Spiritually speaking, I cannot enjoy the full benefit of God’s sheltering, protecting shadow if I am holding on to grudges, past sins, burned out hopes, or even past victories. I also cannot move from battle to rest if I am insisting all details be known and all questions answered. It is only when I give up holding onto what has been and willingly embrace a place where mysteries remain unanswered that I find the blissful rest of being held by the hand and sheltered under the wings of the Almighty.


Darkness Has an End:

Have you ever wondered what might have happened if instead of calling the light into existence, God had commanded the darkness to vanish? He could have done it that way, but He didn’t. It seems the God of the Universe had other, bigger plans.

Instead of eliminating the dark, God created light and juxtaposed the two. Neither light nor darkness had dominance. Both were confined to specific times and both given limits that ruled them. [1] Light and dark were to alternate, each giving way to the other at specific times and under preset conditions.

In some ways this first act of creation was unique from the rest of creation week. For one thing, physical light and dark became symbols of larger philosophical issues. Throughout the Bible, light is chosen to represent goodness, insight, and even God is said to be light. [2] On the other end of the scale, darkness is used to represent confusion, torment, and evil. [3]

The Bible is a continuing story of light alternating with darkness. However, the two are not so much in conflict as it might appear. The Bible is simply being honest admitting that both these realities exist. Chapter by chapter, book by book, it the story unfolds a rolling cycle of history. All those who are born, die. For every victory there is a loss. Each revival is followed by eventual decline. Declines are offset by grace and revival. Fortunes are gained and vanish. Nations are built, diminish, and rebuild. It can all seem rather pointless.

In his book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon struggled to understand life and came to the conclusion that everything was pointless. [4] Yet, his book gives a clue as to why the smartest man who ever lived could find no meaning in life and died a wasted, disillusioned drunk. Solomon said he studied life as it exists under the sun. [5] His view point was earth. Not faith, not God, not eternity, only earth. This same conclusion is the only response any honest, thinking person must draw if they limit themselves to earth’s perspective. Solomon is right. Nothing matters. Everything just goes round and round, and then you die. From nothing, to nothing, for no reason while experiencing light/darkness, pleasure/pain in random, meaningless cycles.

It has been said that the spirit of man can stand any amount of pain as long as he knows it has a purpose and it will one day have an end. [6] Yet, those were the exact elements Solomon’s view was missing. Without something beyond earth, life is nothing but one big, frustrating emptiness. It is only when we consider things beyond the physical limits of earth that life begins to make sense.

Through the generations humans have tried to find the missing element that could give life purpose and a goal, but for those who refuse to look no further than what is under the sun, the philosophies came up empty. Only faith in Someone beyond life under the sun can give purpose and goal.

When we believe in a personal God who is in ultimate control and cares about what happens on earth, purpose and goal come into focus. Life has purpose because death is not the end. By faith we know there is a meaning in the darkness and someday the shadows will pass. [7]

This faith is not a blind jump. But it is misty. Nowhere is this mist more pointedly felt than in the question of human suffering. Paul called trouble a mystery [8] to which only God holds the key. Later, he said, “For now we are looking in a mirror that gives only a dim (blurred) reflection . . . Now I know in part (imperfectly); but then I shall know and understand fully and clearly, even in the same manner as I have been fully and clearly known and understood (by God). [9]

For this present time, Christians don’t know everything even though some, unfortunately, act as though they do. However, for those who hold both to faith and to reality, we see enough of God’s hand shaping our world and our individual daily experience that our hope is not that of fools who act without evidence. For us, history is not billions of years stretched between endpoints of nothingness. Our story is going somewhere. By faith we hold that earth’s end point will not be a whimper fading into oblivion but a shout of victory wrapped in the glorious promise, “…and there shall be no night there!” [10]
  

[1] Genesis 1:1-5 [2] I John 1:5; [3] Matthew 22:13; [4] The book of Ecclesiastes, [5] Ecclesiastes 1:3; 1:9; 1:14 [6] Jewish psychiatrist Viktor Frankl in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning. [7] Revelation 10:5 & 6; [8] II Thessalonians 2:7, [9] I Corinthians 13:12, Amplified [10] Revelation 22:5. p>

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Darkness Has a Name:

Darkness comes in many forms. There is physical night. The daily rhythm of life when the sun slips away and shadows become long. It is a time of release as one by one people and objects fade while the dark gathers closer to our skin. Night spreads black tentacles in every direction and we’re driven inside seeking the comfort of light. 

But, there is also an internal darkness that can’t be cured by a sunrise. Sadness. Pain. Fear. Loneliness. The sun sinking below the horizon creates physical darkness but what is the reason for internal night? Several theologians and writers have come up with good books on the subject. Joni Tada’s, When God Weeps, may be one of the best. Yet, no matter how much we understand, much remains shrouded in mystery. Perhaps a lot of our darkness is no more than the high price of living in a fallen world. 

That’s why it’s so good remember the many scriptures about night and God’s relationship to it. Some of these references are about His control of the physical night, but many refer to the darkness of the soul. All can be used to demonstrate His care and comfort no matter what kind of darkness we are facing at the moment. Darkness is not a strange happenstance that takes God by surprise. It is not the leftover part of the universe He has not managed to conquer. The dark is just as much under His control as any other aspect of life. 

In my younger years, I thought bright light and clear answers were evidence of the nearness of God. But as I learned more of His word, I’ve often been surprised by the way darkness is combined with the presence of God. Many of the major works of God took place when human eyes were the most blinded. 

God counts time starting each day with the twilight hours. [1] The Ten Commandments were given in the dark. [2] God called the young boy, Samuel, in the middle of the night [3] and Nehemiah found clear direction about the job to be done as he rode around the walls of Jerusalem in the night. [4] The closest God ever stepped toward man was when He came in the person of Jesus Christ and this, too, was shrouded in darkness. The birth, death and resurrection of Jesus all took place in the dark. [5]

Creation began in confusion and darkness [6] then God broke in with order and light. But He did not choose to leave it all light. He bound up the darkness, confined it to discrete limits of time and gave it a name: Night. Later, He gave a large light to rule the day and a lesser light to rule the night. [7] Notice the word rule. Order was given to the day but order was also given to the night. Darkness was not out of God’s control. It was not the backwash of His kingdom. It was planned, ruled and named. 

Our personal darkness is also not a thing that is outside His awareness, care, and control. It had a beginning and it will have an end. It has plan and it has purpose. [8] But more than all of these, our darkness has a journey mate. A friend who will walk along side us even when the night is the deepest. Jesus is the personal touch from God who lets us know He understands for He was born in the dark and He died in the dark. Our darkness may be so deep that we cannot see the path at all. But we can be assured Jesus knows the way and is very familiar with all unseen details for He spent a lifetime walking through dark places. 

[1] Genesis 1:13 [2] Deuteronomy 4:11 [3] I Samuel 3:2-10 [4] Nehemiah 2:13 [5] Luke 2:8-14; Matthew 27:45; Luke 24:1 [6] Genesis 1:2 [7] Genesis 1:16 [8] Romans 8:28; Jeremiah 29:11

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