Hello Darkness My Old Friend

O LORD, GOD of my salvation, I cry out to you by day. I come to You at night. Now hear my prayer; listen to my cry. For my life is full of troubles, and death draws near. I am as good as dead, like a strong man with no strength left. They have left me among the dead, and I lie like a corpse in a grave. I am forgotten, cut off from Your care. You have thrown me into the lowest pit, into the darkest depths. Your anger weighs me down; with wave after wave You have engulfed me. You have driven my friends away by making me repulsive to them. I am in a trap with no way of escape. My eyes are blinded by my tears. Each day I beg for Your help, O LORD; I lift my hands to You for mercy. Are Your wonderful deeds of any use to the dead? Do the dead rise up and praise You? Can those in the grave declare Your unfailing love? Can they proclaim Your faithfulness in the place of destruction? Can the darkness speak of Your wonderful deeds? Can anyone in the land of forgetfulness talk about Your righteousness? O LORD, I cry out to You. I will keep on pleading day by day. O LORD, why do You reject me? Why do You turn Your face from me? I have been sick and close to death since my youth. I stand helpless and desperate before Your terrors. Your fierce anger has overwhelmed me. Your terrors have paralyzed me. They swirl around me like floodwaters all day long. They have engulfed me completely. You have taken away my companions and loved ones. Darkness is my closest friend.
Psalms 88:1‭-‬18 NLT

https://bible.com/bible/116/psa.88.1-18.NLT

If you stop reading here, you’ll probably be filled with hopelessness and despair. This Psalm was written by Heman the Ezrahite, a Temple musician, song leader, and a wise and worshipful man. This psalm shows that anyone can suffer from depression. Even the great scholar and preacher Charles Spurgeon suffered terribly from depression. No matter how strongly you believe in God and salvation, depression can be a serious issue. There are many possible causes: situational, systemic (chemical imbalance), physical issues, satanic, or spiritual, but there are things God can teach us in the darkness that we cannot learn in the light. Like in verse 7, it can feel as though God is pouring out His wrath on us, even though we know He doesn’t do that. This Psalm shows that God truly knows how we feel.

Did you know that depression is the leading cause of disability in the U.S.? Statistically, we are the saddest, most depressed nation in the world. There’s plenty to be depressed about. Man made viruses, abortion on demand, war and rumors of war, violence threatened against conservatism, out of control inflation, food shortages, the highest gas prices in decades (ever?), and the utter confusion our kids and young people are dealing with with multiple genders and the LGB+ agenda being crammed down their throats from every side. Christians are constantly being attacked, in print and in the news as being bigoted. Being white or light skin automatically labels you as racist. It isn’t okay to be patriotic for our own country or to want our own country safe from invaders ….. but you’d better support sending billions of dollars to other countries to defend their borders! (It’s kind of depressing to me to even write about it!)

What can we do? How do we deal with depression? Keep talking to GOD! Tell Him everything. Cry to Him and with Him. Even our hymns show that other Christians struggle with depression and understand our needs from being depressed: “I need You, Oh, I need You….” “I must tell Jesus”…. Be reverent, but also be honest with God. Be persistent in prayer, even if you are being repetitious. Let the Spirit speak when you can’t form the words. We deserve the darkness because of our sins, but because of JESUS, we don’t have to dwell in it! “No pit is so deep, that He is not deeper still” – Corrie Ten Boom. Don’t be ashamed or let anyone embarrass you for needing antidepressants to help you out of the pit of depression. God gave us doctors for a reason. Let the LORD set you free from the darkness!

I will sing of the Lord’s unfailing love forever! Young and old will hear of your faithfulness. Your unfailing love will last forever. Your faithfulness is as enduring as the heavens.
Psalms 89:1‭-‬2 NLT

https://bible.com/bible/116/psa.89.1-2.NLT

My Power?

My power? What power? I don’t have any. I used to think that I could make things happen, and change my world to suit the way I wanted things. Do you think that you have gotten to where you are through your own effort and power?

“Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”
Deuteronomy 8:17‭-‬18 NASB1995

https://bible.com/bible/100/deu.8.17-18.NASB1995

I was very busy making my circumstances conform to what I wanted, so much so that I alienated my family. Does your family support you in your power? We weren’t at the point of feuding, but my actions were enough to create a gulf between us. I wasn’t concerned about God’s will, only mine. In my journey through life, I’ve come across several families separated like mine, but there were a few who were feuding, and it tore them apart. I didn’t want that for my family.

He knew their thoughts, so he said, “Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A family splintered by feuding will fall apart. …. Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me.”
Luke 11:17‭, ‬23 NLT

https://bible.com/bible/116/luk.11.17-23.NLT

Finally, I came across a church with people who could see me, and who helped me to see how my destructive behavior was harmful to me, and to my family. Did my younger sisters and brother see me, and use my behavior as a reason for their own rebellion? I don’t know the answer to that, but I know that my behavior harmed our relationships. I wasn’t working for the LORD. I was working for me, for my heart, and it didn’t work out too well for me.

How is your heart? Are you in control of your life? Is the power in your hands, or have you relinquished it to God? He loves us, and He only wants the best for us. So why are so many people in bad situations? There are consequences for our actions. Sometimes they are immediate, but sometimes they are delayed. I am dealing with the consequences of my actions from years ago, and they will stay with me until I die. Often, we get to deal with the consequences of our parents, grandparents, and so on. All of humanity has to live with the decision, the exercise of their free will, of Adam and Eve. Sin was introduced in the Garden, and runs rampant throughout the world today.

God gave us the solution when Jesus, His only Son, came to earth to have His Blood cover us and cleanse us. I need that cleansing, and I have received it. Does that mean I’m now perfect and my life will be filled with rainbows and butterflies from now on? No, I am forgiven, but I still have those consequences for my actions.

Are you forgiven?

Forgiven

“If You, Lord , should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, That You may be feared.” Psalms 130:3‭-‬4 NASB

This reminds me of this phrase: Because I say I am a Christian doesn’t mean I’m perfect (far from it!); it just means I am forgiven.

There’s a song the Newsboys sang called You Are My King, and this is the beginning verse.

I’m forgiven because you were forsaken
I’m accepted, You were condemned
I’m alive and well
Your Spirit is within me
Because you died and rose again

If Jesus hadn’t voluntarily left heaven and accepted living as a human, and then died as our sacrifice for our sins, where would we be today? If Jesus hadn’t voluntarily hung on that cross, forsaken and condemned, where would we be today? If Jesus hadn’t conquered death and hell, and walked away from the tomb, where would we be today?

It is because of His sacrifice that we live.

Have you accepted that? Because of Jesus, all of my sins are forgotten! Without Jesus, there would be no peace in my life. I pray that you find that peace today!

Scriptural Authority

Is everybody is embraced in the church, regardless of their gender, or sexual orientation, or social status? Many people say that gay people would not be welcome, or that Christians are homophobic and too focused on a person’s outward appearance. Unfortunately, in many churches these statements are true. For a church that is trying to follow the example of Jesus Christ, these should not be true. As in any gathering of humans, we find prejudices and pretensions, but does that make the entire group that way?

I appreciate and agree with Pastor T.D. Jakes on this subject. While on the Oprah Winfrey show, he made this statement:”The perception in our society today is that if you don’t say you’re for same-sex marriage or if you say homosexuality is a sin that you’re homophobic and you’re against gay people. And that’s not true.” The pastor continued, “I’m not called to give my opinion. I’m called as a pastor to give the scriptural position on it,” the pastor added. “Doesn’t mean that I have to agree with you to love you. I don’t dislike anybody. I love everybody.”

Winfrey went on to ask if Jakes thinks being gay is a sin. He responded “I think that sex between two people of the same sex is condemned in the Scriptures, and as long as it is condemned in the Scriptures, I don’t get to say what I think. I get to say what the Bible says,” Jakes said. “I’m not anti-gay, I’m not anti-anything. I don’t want to even be known by what I’m against.”

My opinions don’t really matter. What does matter is what the Bible – God’s Word – says. Christians are to love every person. Not what they do or how they live. Do your opinions take over your actions?

The Rescue

“GOD rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the Kingdom of the Son He Loves so much, the SON Who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating.” Colossians 1:13‭-‬14 MSG

I don’t know about anyone else, but this verse resonates deeply with me. I’ve been in those dead-end alleys, the dark dungeons, the black pits. That’s what happens when we do what we decide is right.

No matter how deep you are in trouble, or how much you despair of ever seeing the light, I promise you this. Lift up your head and your hand, and Jesus will be there. It doesn’t take much, just make the effort. It’s all that He’s waiting for, and He will lift you out of the trouble, and carry you until you can walk again.

No worries. No doubts. He will never, ever leave you. Never. Ever. Always by your side. Forever and ever and a day. Just call out His Name and the devil will run!

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind
Sight, riches, healing of the mind
Yea, all I need, in Thee to find
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!
Just as I am, Thou wilt receive
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve
Because Thy promise I believe
O Lamb of God, I come, I come

AMEN!

Is It Time?

“Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves Me must follow Me; and where I am, My servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves Me.” John 12:25‭-‬26 NIV

There’s a lot of selfish love today. Selfies dominate photos being taken. Our culture promotes an attitude of entitlement. Keeping up with the “popular” people. Being accepted by everyone. It’s exhausting. When we stand for Jesus and what is right, we won’t make the “Best Loved” list. We’ll probably make the “Most Hated” list!

I don’t particularly care about what the world thinks about me. Politically, I’m very conservative. I say what I think, and I’m not always very tactful when I say it. Socially, I mix with a wide range of socioeconomic, political, and diverse group. Personally, I pray that people see a tiny bit of Jesus in me, and if someone doesn’t like me or what I say…… that’s their problem. Jesus said “Whoever serves Me must follow Me….”

I’m trying, LORD. Thank You for loving me just the way I am!

Testify!

Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God! Jesus *said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” John 20:28‭-‬29 NASB

When I was 5 years old, I knelt with my daddy and prayed for Jesus to come into my heart. Yes, I was rather a precocious child. Strong willed. Over the years and into my teens, we had numerous missionaries in our home and church, teaching and preaching and discipling. Active in all aspects of church life, going to camp in the summer and lots of activities revolving around Jesus, it was easy for me to believe. As a teen, I knew I was called to serve God as a missionary. At 18, I left home to attend college, determined to follow my LORD. I attended a Christian college where I would be surrounded by by my peers, and I would be supported on my journey.

Life; the world, intervened. Let me assure you, Satan is alive and well at Christian colleges, looking for any cracks and openings in our shields of faith. “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

He found my weakness, and I fell to his tempations. I strayed from my Lord and stayed away, running from God, for many years. Like Moses, I spent 40 years in the wilderness, only mine was a wilderness of sin. God gave me many opportunities to see His Mercy and His Grace. I mostly ignored Him, and chose to blame Him for my circumstances. I even fell back on that Mercy when I found myself in dire circumstances, but I wasn’t ready to let go of my worldly ways, so I would plunge back into that life.

I have compared my lost years to the Israelites 40 years of wandering in the dessert. I started out trusting God, then I slipped away from Him. The Israelites received His Mercy many times throughout their journey – manna and quail when they were hungry and had no food; water where there was none; deliverance from the Egyptians. His Mercy fed and clothed me at times, and He delivered me from certain death more than once. God didn’t destroy the Israelites because of the prayers of the righteous, and He didn’t destroy me – or allow the enemy to destroy me – because of the prayers of my family.

Some of us have to hit our “bottom” before we can see Jesus. We don’t take anyone’s word that He is real, He loves us, and He wants to forgive us. Sometimes we are like Thomas, Doubting Thomas, and we think we have to “put {our} fingers into His wounds” before we believe.

“One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. They told him, “We have seen the LORD!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in His Hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in His side.” Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” He said. Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at My Hands. Put your hand into the wound in My side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” “My LORD and my GOD!” Thomas exclaimed. Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO BELIEVE WITHOUT SEEING ME.” John 20:24‭-‬29 NLT

I’m so far from perfect, it can’t be measured, but the LORD GOD of the Universe thinks I’m worthy of His pursuit. What a humbling thought! I continue to sin and to stumble. I have doubts and I worry. But…..

I am so grateful that He doesn’t give up on us; on me!

Living On The Incline

“Christianity is lived on an incline, and if you’re not moving forward, you’re slipping backwards.” – Tauren Wells, God’s Not Done With You, a 10-day devotional on Bible.com.

“Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and a servant-girl came to him and said, “You too were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.” When he had gone out to the gateway, another servant-girl saw him and said to those who were there, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” And again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.” A little later the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Surely you too are one of them; for even the way you talk gives you away.” Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know the man!” And immediately a rooster crowed.” Matthew 26:69‭-‬74 NASB

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” Exodus 20:17 NASB

It’s a slippery slope we live on; so easy to fall into envy, greed, jealousy, lust, gluttony, pride, anger, laziness…..

“If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He [Jesus] is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:8‭-‬9 NASB

Now is a good time to concentrate on the positive. It’s also a time when many of us make resolutions for the new year. I quit making them, at least publicly, because I never kept them. Actually, there is one that I have made, and it is the same one as this year comes to an end and we go into a new year. Spend as much time as possible in study, prayer, and meditation. I believe that when we put God first, everything else will fall into place. Not always how we want, or think it should be, but according to God’s Will.

“The righteous cry, and the LORD hears And delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalms 34:17‭-‬18 NASB

Pray always. Whether in your quiet place, or a church building, or walking down the street, it’s simply having a conversation with the LORD. He always hears us.

Jesus and The “Littles” …

How did Jesus treat children? Not, as some people do, expecting them to “be seen and not heard!” Blessing children is scriptural from Genesis and on throughout the Scriptures, both Old Testament and New Testament.

“And they” (the Greek word used indicates the fathers as spiritual leaders bringing their families, their children) “were bringing children” (infants up to 12 year olds) “to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them.” (The disciples are blocking people instead of being a bridge to Jesus. They were acting as bodyguards, trying to hinder or stop anyone from coming to Christ, when they should have instead been encouraging.)“But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant” (angered) “and said to them” (His disciples), ” ‘Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child” (with empty hands, coming as they – weak, helpless, dependent) “will not” (the Greek word translates as never ever) “enter it at all.’ And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.” – Mark 10:13‭-‬16 NASB (also see Luke and Matthew)

** Side note: This passage is not about infant baptism; it is about blessing the children. Baptism is an outward, public declaration of putting our faith and trust in Jesus Christ; i.e. entering the kingdom, by being immersed in water, representing the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord.

We must come to Jesus as a child; we can offer nothing to Him because He is the Creator of all things. Without Him, we have nothing. From the hymn Rock of Age, written in 1763 by the Reverend Augustus Toplady:

Nothing in my hand I bring
Simply to Thy cross I cling
Nothing in my hand I bring
Simply to Thy cross I cling
Naked, come to Thee for dress
Helpless, look to Thee for grace
Vile, I to the fountain fly
Wash me, savior, or I die