Monday, June 4, 2012

Gleaning Encouragement from Scriptures in Times of Disillusionment

Dear friends,

I am trying to dig into the Bible more consistently and more deeply, so I wrote out a little plan of what I would study this week. It's not because I have to, like I am proving something by checking it off, but because I want to do it and I know it will bring life.   Now that it's summer, I have a little more time to study, so I am pondering a little from the New Testament, a Psalm, a chapter of Proverbs, and some Old Testament history. Throughout the Scriptures, he meets us where we are. Here are a few of my thoughts gleaned from this morning's readings, especially for those who may be feeling disillusioned with their spiritual experiences.  

Luke 24:1-8

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” Then they remembered his words.

The women had just experienced a huge loss. Their hopes for the Kingdom of God had been dashed with the death of their messiah Jesus. And yet they had prepared spices to anoint his dead body. They were loyal friends to him even in their disappointment, even though he hadn't done what they had come to expect of him. (I wonder, "What spices can I offer to him out of the ashes of my disillusionment?") Yet, on stepping out in love in the face of death, they meet LIFE instead!  "He is risen!  Remember what he told you?" I must remember his words, too, by studying the Scriptures.

Psalm 4

Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer.
How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame?
    How long will you love delusions and seek false gods? 
Know that the 
Lord has set apart the godly for himself;
Lord will hear when I call to him.
In your anger do not sin;
    when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Selah
Offer right sacrifices and trust in the Lord.
Many are asking, “Who can show us any good?”
    Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord.
You have filled my heart with greater joy
    than when their grain and new wine abound.
I will lie down and sleep in peace,
    for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

When we are disillusioned with other Christians, with delusional concepts that we had believed about God and the church, with false teaching that has brought a sense of shame, it is easy to question, "Who can show us any good?" Yet we pray, "Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord." What claimed to be light wasn't always light. We want true light, the light of his face. We want to live in his joy and peace and glory, not sinning back against those who have hurt us, but trusting him and doing the right thing no matter what someone else is doing.

Proverbs 4 (selected passages)

Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them.
Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you.
Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. 
Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
Esteem her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you.
She will set a garland of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendor. 

Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.
Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men.
Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way.
For they cannot sleep till they do evil; 
they are robbed of slumber till they make someone fall.
They eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence.
The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, 
shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. 
Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.
Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm.
Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.

Many people who have been burned by churches or Christian organizations are especially vulnerable to "throwing the baby out with the bathwater" and giving up on Biblical truth because it has been so misrepresented. They either quit trying to figure it out at all, or they turn to other belief systems that prey on their angst with what they have experienced so far in  Christianity. Yet this is the time to be especially discerning, and really turn back to the Scriptures to find the truth.This is not the time to dabble with unbiblical doctrines or to cut loose with the morals. This is the time to watch out even more over our beliefs and our practices.  Wisdom is what feeds your heart, and your heart is the wellspring of your life.  Guard them well.

1 Kings 19

This passage is too long to include here, but I encourage you to read it: 1 Kings 19.  Here is a brief summary with a few extra comments...

In the previous chapter, Elijah just won a showdown with the evil king Ahab when God sent the fire down to consume the sacrifice and the altar, showing who was the true God to the followers of Baal.This is the spiritual mountaintop, a spiritual victory.  Yet now that Queen Jezebel is threatening to kill him, Elijah runs for his life, sits down under a broom tree and prays to die. Wow! What a crash landing! Isn't it true that sometimes our deepest depression and despair comes right after we have worn ourselves out with serving God? Or when we are being challenged even more by our enemies and we forget how God has already shown himself powerful in our defense? Physical and emotional fatigue and or a big confrontation can really sap us dry. In his depletion, Elijah slept. He needed rest. When he woke up, an angel came and brought him food and water, telling him that he needed it for the journey. No big sermon, just practical help to strengthen him for what was to come, which was a forty day journey to Horeb, the mountain of God. When Elijah gets there and spends the night in a cave, God asks him what he is doing there.  Elijah replies that he has been zealous, but that he's the only prophet left.  He keenly feels the isolation, and he's throwing a pity party for "me, myself and I" since no one else was there. The Lord said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of God, for the LORD is about to pass by." A powerful wind and earthquake and fire all came, but God wasn't in those.  Instead, he came in the the gentle whisper. Isn't that true? Sometimes we are looking to the spectacular for the presence of God. We run after the miracles, after the celebrity preachers and the big conferences, after the dramatic experiences. Yet sometimes he comes to us in a quiet word when we are all alone. That's when he lets us know that we really aren't alone, that God is there, and that there are other authentic believers to partner with us in fellowship and ministry. God told Elijah that he had reserved 7,000 faithful prophets. He also commissioned Elijah to anoint two kings and a prophet to succeed him. He still had work to do! And now he was going to get a much needed helper, Elisha! Be still and know that he is God. Listen to his quiet voice. I think there is much to learn from this passage to help us keep going when we are worn out and facing opposition.

I hope these thoughts have been encouraging to you.

What is God teaching you from the Bible?


Virginia Knowles