For people in my area and in my circle, there have been a number of significant unsettling events. First was the major earthquake in Nepal, where several young friends either live or are currently visiting. Then the riots in Baltimore, where many of my friends live or work, even some serving in the police. Who can make sense of an earthquake? And even more so, who can make sense of senseless violence, striking out at innocents?
In these unsettled times, there is only one safe haven, and that is God. One of the verses that I both take comfort from and see a direction for my desire to DO something is Philippians 4:5-7, which says, “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (NIV).
Because the Lord is near, we can rest in him. But just to be sure he doesn’t miss anything important (okay, maybe it’s so we get to partner with him), we can discipline ourselves to be aware that because he is near and because he cares, we can begin by thanking him, and then, in that attitude of faith that comes from recognizing our basis for thankfulness, we can present our requests, knowing that he hears us. When we are at that point, we are ready to receive his peace.
“The Bible in the hands of the devil is not true. It takes the Word of God plus the Spirit of God to equal the Truth of God.”
— Kris Vallotton, “Fashioned to Reign”, Kindle location 1398
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I love, love, love how The Message translation of the Bible phrases John 3:16-21! It tells the entire message of Jesus to people who don’t know him yet, as well as to people who do:
16-18 “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.”
19-21 “This is the crisis we’re in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won’t come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is.”
“The primary truth you need to know about God in order for your faith to remain strong is that His love and acceptance is unconditional. When your walk of faith is strong, God loves you. When your walk of faith is weak, God loves you…. God’s love for you is the great eternal constant in the midst of all the inconsistencies of your daily walk.”
— Neil T. Anderson, “Victory Over the Darkness”, p. 118
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“The voice of Shame says, I basically hate me; I need to get rid of me. The voice of Discipline says, I’ve got to fix me, because me is not good. God says, I love you; let me restore you. I like that one best. God is unveiling who we truly are. Unveiled faces, as Paul put it. All those veils of shame and sin and the false self, all those veils others have put upon us, thinking they know who we ought to be — God takes them all away so that with unveiled faces we might reflect his glory.”
— Stasi Eldredge, “Becoming Myself”, Kindle location 197
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If a blessing were conferred upon one without a special readiness for it, he would neither value it sufficiently nor long retain it.
— Sadhu Sundar Singh, “At the Master’s Feet”, Kindle location 428
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I wanted to do something special to honor God on Good Friday this year. Normally I participate in the Cross Walk in my town, in which people from the churches in the area carry an 8-foot high wooden cross about a mile through town. But this year I decided that it would be a lot more meaningful for me to spend the day completely focused on God at a silent retreat.
So around 9 on Good Friday morning, I hopped in my car for the one-hour drive to the silent retreat center. It was raining, and that took some of my excitement away, since I usually walk outdoors a lot at the silent retreat center, and if it rained all day, I’d be stuck inside, potentially with a large number of people. And six hours cramped indoors with a bunch of silent strangers is not the best environment to stay focused on God. But I also sensed God wanted me to go, so I went. It turned out that the rain kept a lot of people home, so the attendance was light. It also didn’t rain the whole time, so I got to walk outdoors for close to two hours, which was quite a blessing, given how comfortable the temperature was.
I don’t normally go to silent retreats with questions on my mind. I am normally content just experiencing the intimate Presence of God and following his lead in the conversation. But this time I went with questions that I had been thinking about for a few days. I had been thinking about Good Friday, and Jesus being crucified. This led me to think — believe it or not — about the original sin in the Garden of Eden, about the wrath of God, about why Jesus had to die for us (instead of God just forgiving us without Jesus’ death), and about the passages in the Bible that talked about the potter and the clay.
I knew that having a lot of questions didn’t guarantee getting a lot of answers — though many of my deepest questions have been answered on silent retreats. But I also sensed while I was driving there that there was a certain order the questions should be addressed in. And by that I mean that there were certain Bible passages that pertained to the various questions, and I had a general idea what order to read the verses in. Which gave me hope that God was going to do something special. But I was completely shocked out how special the time was, and how much I gained significant insight into some of the issues on my heart.