Christianity 201

November 2, 2017

When Gratitude Shines in the Darkness

Clarke Dixon’s full-length articles return next week. In the meantime, this is a shorter one we had in the files which you hadn’t seen before.

by Clarke Dixon

Harvey, Irma, Maria, Abdulahi Hasan Sharif, “Ahmed H”, Stephen Paddock. These are names that have been associated with fear, sadness, and anger in recent days. Whether nature unleashing “natural” disasters, or humans being inhumane, these names can be added to a long history of names that have stirred up negative emotions. We can add to the list the names of various diseases that cause us to think of loved ones. Cancer, Parkinson’s, Diabetes, Alzheimer’s, it seems the list could go on forever. Yet, when the dust settles, something else bubbles up. Gratitude for the first responders. Gratitude for family and friends being at one’s side. Gratitude for complete strangers who have responded with help and aid. Gratitude to God for hope that holds firm in the midst of fear.

No matter the tragedy, eventually the emotions of fear, sadness, and anger make space for gratitude. To respond to the events of life with a range of emotions is not bad. But to be moving to new emotions is good. One is reminded of the words of the Psalmist:

Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5 (NRSV)

In this Psalm, the Psalmist has an experience that many can relate to, namely, the experience both of God’s goodness, and seeming absence:

6 As for me, I said in my prosperity,
“I shall never be moved.”
7 By your favor, O Lord,
you had established me as a strong mountain;
you hid your face;
I was dismayed.. Psalms 30:6-7 (NRSV)

The Psalmist next makes an appeal to God in prayer and you can probably guess how the Psalm ends:

11 You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy,
12 so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever. Psalms 30:11-12 (NRSV)

Joy and gratitude. With God in our lives these are always the emotions we can look forward to even if we don’t feel that way in the moment. With Christ’s grace and love keeping a firm grip on us through the hardest of trials, salvation will come. The Psalmist does not say he will give thanks to the Lord for the rest of his life. He says “I will give thanks to you forever.” That is a very long thanksgiving celebration!

Read more at clarkdixon.wordpress.com



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  1. Is this a blog to which I would want to refer readers to see what else the author has written about?
  2. Is the article rooted in scripture? Is God’s word the focus?
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In addition to submissions we’re always looking for readers who can recommend suitable material.


 

August 6, 2016

Times of Personal and National Darkness

We’re always learning about new (or in this case, new to us) websites and blogs containing great devotional and study material. A few days ago we discovered Exceptional Christian. After looking at newer articles, we discovered this not-so-recent piece* by Jason Lautzenheiser in the archives. Click the title below, or the one at the bottom of today’s entry, to see the rest of his blog.

times of darknessThe Darkness is Receding

I heard someone say not too long ago that “From deepest darkness, shines the brightest light.”  I’ve heard it before in different variations and I’m not really sure where it originated.  But regardless, think about that for a moment.  I’ll wait……

…. So here we sit, in one of the darkest times, at least in my estimation, in the history of this nation (at least perhaps in my generation).  I won’t turn this into a political debate or commentary on one party or the other.  Anyone who knows me, knows my opinions on those matters.  But the last two years have been dark for many people.  So many have lost jobs and lost their businesses.  They are struggling to pay the bills. Struggling to put food on the table and keep a roof over their head.  Yet between government taxes, school levies, and rising costs of just about everything (food and fuel most notably), it seems that the hole is getting deeper and the world is getting darker.

Let’s look at some quotes from the Bible about darkness.

Some sat in darkness, in utter darkness, prisoners suffering in iron chains, because they rebelled against God’s commands and despised the plans of the Most High.”  -Psalm 107:10,11

But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”  -Matthew 6:23

Wisdom will save you from the ways of the wicked men, from men whose words are perverse, who have left the straight paths to walk in dark ways”  -Proverbs 2:12-13

But in all things the best way to destroy the darkness is to create a light.  Again let’s look at some Bible verses on light.

And God said, let there be light and there was light.  God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.”  -Genesis 1:3-4

This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”  -1 John 1:5

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” -Psalm 27:1

I could go on and on, but my point is…We all go through our dark times, some darker than others, some last longer than others and some seem so deep and dark that it appears hopeless that we can ever come out.  But, the best way to defeat the darkness is to find the light.  Create it if you have too.  Strike a match, build a huge fire.  No matter how small the light, darkness always runs away from it.

Look at the darkness that is in your life right now.  What are your struggles?

Out of a job?  Take the opportunity to find a better job or learn a new skill.  Start your own business.  Create the light of hope that you will be better off in the near future.

In debt up to your ears?  Take the opportunity to learn to budget.  Learn to live within your means.  Find ways to increase your income to better your situation.

Health not what it should be?  Take the opportunity to start exercising, eat healthier.

About 10 years ago I went through a period of darkness.  I had a great job and then boom it was gone.  I once had plenty of money, now I had none.  I stressed and felt sorry for myself for a time…I lived in the darkness.  But then I created a light, I was determined to start my own business.  I created Malachi Computer.  I struggled for a time as any fledgling business will.  But it slowly grew and over a period of two years, I built it into something that I could support myself with.  Those two years were rough but we made it through it.  During that growing period, I created other business opportunities to supplement my main income.  Mainly I sold stuff on eBay.  I did OK with it, it got us through the lean times.  In fact that bit of light spread to others who started selling and helped to bring a little light to their darkness as well.

Now we face another period of darkness brought on by the poor economy.  Again, I wallowed in my darkness, forgetting those lessons of years ago.  But the light is brightening, the darkness is receding.  This bit of darkness has made me work that much harder to take my business to the next level.  Again, I’ve created other business opportunities with new found friends that are going to increase the light and spread it too others.  Exciting things are coming.  The darkness is receding.

Yes there will be tough times ahead, but God promises to never give us more than we can handle.

… And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”  – 1 Corinthians 10:13

There will be better times than these, you can make them happen with God’s help.  Strive to take the darkness that surrounds us, learn from it, grow from it and let that light of passion, innovation and excitement be that spark that ignites the blaze in your life that chases away your darkness.

The darkness is receding!!


* It’s interesting reading the introduction to this and then consider that it was written in 2010.  Most recently Jason wrote:

Look, you mockers be amazed and die! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it. – Acts 13:41

With all that is going on in the news these days, between the attacks around the world to the politics here in the US, I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard people say, “Where is God?” or “Why would God let something like this happen?” or “God must have abandoned us because of our falling away from him.” But, my friends, I fully believe that God is as active as he was yesterday and as he was the day before that.

But these questions still abound. Where is God and why isn’t he doing something. The verse above from Acts was something Paul said in response to those people who mocked and persecuted him and the other early Christians. Here he quoted the book of Habakkuk;

The Lord replied, “Look at the nations and be amazed! Watch and be astounded at what I will do! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.” – Habakkuk 1:5

…continue reading the article, Awakening at Exceptional Christian

July 23, 2015

Struck Down, But Not Destroyed

Today we pay a return visit to Charlie Garret at The Superior Word blog. He is working his way through 2 Corinthians; there are a large number of articles which precede this one, and no doubt several to follow in this particular passage. This is actually two posts from two different days. If you click the links and then click the banner, you can bookmark the site to return as he continues through these verses. (That’s okay, we’ll be here in a week when you get back!)

The first time someone handed me a Bible that was open to this passage was at a very pivotal time in my life. I have never forgotten what it was like to read these words in those circumstances.

2 Corinthians 4:8

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 2 Corinthians 4:8

There is a lot going on in these few words as Paul’s ideas were printed onto the parchment. The previous verse began with “But we have…” The verb was present-indicative. Now this verse has all of the clauses in a present-participle form. Thus, they are in apposition – “we have/we are.” Each of the articles in this verse respects inward conflicts, whereas each in the next verse will deal with external conflicts.

Also, in each of these clauses the idea is building upon the previous verse which noted first the “treasure in earthen vessels” and then “the excellence of the power…of God.” The first deals with the fragility of the created, the second with the power of the Creator. He is showing the superiority of the contents in the vessel despite the weakness of the vessel itself.

His first words “hard-pressed on every side” show their seeming inability to break away from that which is troubling them. And yet because of God’s power, they were “not crushed.” Despite the pressures, they were able to bear up.

Further, he says they were “perplexed.” The word indicates an inability to find a way out of something. And yet, at the same time, they were “not in despair.” In these last two words a paronomasia results. They are aporoumenoi and exaporoumenoi. It is as if Paul was temporarily tempted by a tasty treat of targeted tones in order to tantalize the ears of his readers. In an attempt to reproduce the original, one translator says “pressed, but not oppressed.”

Paul is showing that by living through the power of God, they were (and thus we are) able to bear up under the turmoil and trouble that constantly came their way. If we rely on our own physical make-up, we will surely see only defeat. But when we rely on the strength that is given by God, we will be able to bear up as the attacks come our way. As Paul says it elsewhere, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

Life application: It is easy to read words such as Philippians 4:13 and say, “I will hold to this and trust in it.” However, it is much harder to continue to trust those words when the difficulties come. This is why we must memorize them and repeat them to ourselves again and again. We do this so that when the difficulties arrive, we will be prepared mentally to allow the strength of the Lord to take the lead.

Heavenly Father, help me to not just memorize catchy verses from the Bible, but to sincerely take them to heart in order to prepare me for the day of battle. When the trials arrive, grant me that sure confidence that what Your word says really does apply, even in the most difficult or darkest moments. Help me in this Lord. Grant me the surest confidence in Your wonderful word at all times. Amen.

2 Corinthians 4:9

…persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—  2 Corinthians 4:9

Paul continues with his contrasts which began in the previous verse. Those previous contrasts were from internal struggles; these are from external ones. His imagery is as if a soldier in combat who is first “persecuted, but not forsaken.” The words have the intent of “pursued, but not abandoned” (Ellicott). As if they were soldiers being pursued by an enemy, Paul says that even in such a state the Lord is with them. This follows along with the wording of Hebrews –

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say:
‘The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear.
What can man do to me?’” Hebrews 13:5, 6

And surely this imagery is appropriate because the state which Christians find themselves in is a true battle. Paul discusses this in detail in Ephesians 6. His description includes this thought –

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12

The second contrast is that they are “struck down, but not destroyed.” This again is the imagery of a soldier whose life is spared despite being wounded. It could even be of wrestlers in a bout of mortal combat. When Jacob wrestled with the Lord in Genesis 32, the match continued without either letting up, and so in order to end the match, we read these words –

“Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him.” Genesis 32:25

Jacob was struck down, but he was not destroyed in the process. The Lord could have done so, but instead He humbled him and yet spared him. Paul shows that this is the state of the apostles as they strived to share the message of Christ. With their many struggles, both internal and external, they were able to press on because the Lord was there with them to ensure they would never falter or fail.

Life application: The Bible sys that the Lord will never leave His people and He will never forsake them. Paul was eventually martyred for his faith, as were almost every one of the apostles. Did the Lord break His promise? No! They have something that those who persecuted and killed them don’t have. They have the assurance of eternal life because of their trust in Christ. Truly, what can man do to one who is saved by the blood of Christ!

Heavenly Father, You have promised to never leave nor forsake Your people, and yet millions of faithful Christians have been martyred over the ages. Should we lose hope? Should we despair? No! We should rejoice that they were saved by You and they are saved by You. As followers of Christ, we have the absolute assurance that the blood has saved us. No fear here! Whatever happens to this earthly body is temporary, but an eternal glory awaits. Hallelujah and Amen!