In Our Darkest Hour

January 16, 2015

Acts 16:16-29
Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.
19When the owners of the slave girl realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”
22The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. 23After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
25About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose. 27The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
29The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

In Our Darkest Hour

As we endeavor to walk the walk of faith we come to experience and realize that God doesn’t just rescue us out of every bad circumstance and trial. The experience Paul and Silas have here is a case and point. God had something more far reaching than an immediate rescue or even the avoidance of a very unpleasant experience for His servants. Like them, there are times when our reasoning might be “God, I am doing your will and I am in your service, why are you allowing these things to happen to me? Why didn’t you come through when I called upon You?”
Remember the words of Jesus in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” If Jesus, the Son of God, had to endure the cross, despising the shame, then know that there can and will be dark and difficult times when we follow in His footsteps. The question then isn’t really are we going to experience trials and tribulations, those are almost a given. The question is how do we respond when we are in the midst of these dark times? Will we blame God for failing us? Will we give up and forsake the faith or will we do what Paul and Silas did in there greatest and darkest hour of despair. They were praying, praising and singing hymns unto the Lord. If you want to talk about a time when they might have had zero incentive to praise God this could have been it. They have been wrongfully accused, convicted, beaten within an inch of their lives, thrown into the inner, darkest dungeon and put into chains. Everything in the natural declared that they were defeated and God hadn’t saved them. Just stick a fork in them cause they are done.
These are men that no longer walk by their feelings and emotions. These are men that have entrusted themselves into the hands of God whether for life or for death. Their faith and commitment have superseded their circumstances. This is where we have to be in our walk and in our faith in this hour. In our darkest hour we cannot be murmuring and complaining about how God failed us. God is God and does all things according to His time and purpose which may be in direct contradiction to ours. So what do we do in these times? We worship Him. It doesn’t matter what happens upon the earth or how bad it gets, God is still on the throne. He is still sovereign over the affairs of men. Evil men may prevail for a time, but in the end they must answer to the Almighty.
Job 13: 15 says, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him…” This must become the motto and battle cry of God’s people. We are His in life and in death. We are His in health and in sickness. We are His in prosperity and poverty. We are His in freedom and in prison. We are His in justice and injustice. In all our ways and with all of our hearts we must be His.
We see God showing up in the darkest hour in the midst of praise and worship. He shows Himself strong and sovereign even in a naturally impossible situation. Through this travail and sorrow, salvation and life are brought forth to the glory of God. We are pregnant with His life and often the bringing forth of that life comes with much travail and sorrow, but joy comes in the morning. Light triumphs over the darkness and life over death. There is no greater honor we can have than to lay down our lives for Christ’s sake. Many saints have not been rescued as Paul and Silas were this night and eventually they, also, came to a time when they gave their lives for the gospel. The martyrs are the color guard of heaven. They carry the standard of His righteousness and the banner of His love. They are His elite elect and faithful ones, because they loved not their lives even unto death.
Many of us are in dark times or will be in the near future. They may or may not be life threatening, but they won’t be easy. In these times we must enter into His rest. We must resign to the truth that our greatest victory is found not in self-effort, but through prayer, praise and worship. In Daniel 3 when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down and worship Nebuchadnezzar’s idol they faced sure death for not complying, but this was their response, “16Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. 17If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. 18But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” This is the abandonment of faith into the hands of God. This is something that everything in the natural cries out against, but for the ones who know their God this is the place of our peace.

Blessinsg,
#kent

Higher Level Living

March 5, 2014

Matthew 5:11-12

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”


Higher Level Living


What is our natural response to insults, verbal and physical attacks, slander, gossip and false accusations?  Isn’t it to fight back, justify, retaliate and begin attacking our attackers.  Suddenly we find ourselves drawn in and participating in the same fleshly ugliness of those who attacked us. We have come down to their level and are fighting with the same carnal weapons they are.  We are opening our hearts to be influenced by the same spirits that are influencing them.  

“An eye for eye and a tooth for a tooth,” some will say.  Funny you should say that because a little further down in Matthew 5:32-42 Jesus says,  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”  

Wow, that is pretty unconventional wisdom by this world’s standards and wisdom only a few are willing to walk in.  

Why?

Because it denies all of “my” rights.  It is asking me to give up and renounce what is “mine”.  It is asking me to return good for evil and it imposes seemingly unfair demands upon “me” as a person.  It  seems to be letting injustice prevail and our rights to be taken unfair advantage of.  

When we can all walk in the principles that Jesus gives us in Matthew 5-7 it is probably a pretty good indicator that we are getting very close to being dead unto self and alive only unto Christ.  For us to willingly walk in the principles that Jesus is describing means it can no longer be about me, but only about exemplifying and living out of  Christ.  These are the principles that He walked and lived by.  The reason He could is because His heart and affection weren’t upon His natural man or the things of this world.  

We all have our possessions and things we have worked hard for.  We all have our reputation and our dignity to uphold.  It so goes against our grain to be taken advantage of or exploited or to be spoken falsely about.  

What Jesus is telling us is, there is a higher level of kingdom living that most of us never touch or  really know because we are still so connected and attached to this earthly kingdom and realm.  Many of us still think that the political candidate or president is going to determine the fate of the world, the nation and my well being.   We may believe if others aren’t of our particular denomination or persuasion of belief they are going to hell or will miss it and yet how many of us are really living these principles of Jesus?  

What we all need as believers, who say we love Christ, is a deliverance from a lot of our materialistic and capitalist ways.  They are not His ways, but what the world has taught us is true and valuable.  If we are not of this world then why are these things still so important to us?  The truth is most of us are really living out of a lower level of life and values than what Christ has called us too.  

Sometimes we don’t think much about it until we are put in those positions where we must choose between the conventional wisdom of this world and the wisdom that is from above.  If you want to really stand out as odd, even among most of the Christian community, try truly walking in the principles that Christ lays out here.  

Finally Jesus really stretches us even more in verses 38-43 by saying,  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Jesus is calling us to a higher place.  It is not a realm where we can operate in conventional wisdom or even love with conventional love.  It  is place that we can only operate out of, by His Spirit and His Agape’ love.   It is a place where our self identity can not live; only our identity in Christ.  It is a place where we need to thank God for our enemies, because they are the only ones who can help elevate us to this realm of living and being.  Are we ready for a higher level of living?

 

Blessings,

kent

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