Thursday, September 24, 2015

What A Difference A Year Makes

The ancient prophet Jeremiah wrote in Lamentations 3 that the mercies of God are new every morning. The darkness may seem to linger. Emotions that come dangerously close to clinical depression may fill our existence. The heaviness of defeat may linger. The mercies of God are unchanging. 

If you have read any of the recent posts, you know that the past two weeks have been an awakening of sorts. During this time last year, our family prayed that a group of men would take a stand for the bride of Christ and for biblical authority. We prayed for wisdom as to how to proceed no matter which direction they chose. They chose poorly, and our family had to decide whether we could continue to be part of a body of Christ whose leaders rejected the Great Commission, belittled the truth of God's word, and sat silently while the enemy tore the body of Christ to pieces. 

The irony of contrast opened the opportunity for us to be part of a revival in another local congregation the same week. This church, though small in number, was large in the Spirit. This body represented everything that the other did not. They loved each other, valued God's word, and looked for ways to spread the gospel with the resources God provided. Being with this congregation while watching to see what another group of leaders would do cemented the truth that some bodies are so unhealthy that only a miracle can revive them. Some congregational research even says that the only solution for some unhealthy churches is for them to die. Perhaps someone can come along and replant in the area. Perhaps the remnant who still longed for a deeper walk with Christ can begin again. Some congregations, though, are so damaged and are causing so much damage to the name of Christ that closing and perhaps starting over are the best options.

Families may find themselves in the middle of these situations. The struggle is that families can't physically close and replant. Spiritually, though, the story becomes more interesting. We have learned from experience over the last year what we have known cognitively for years. "Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning" (Psalm 30:5). As a family, we sensed God's strong inclination that we needed to separate from one particular body of Christ so as to avoid the spread of spiritual disease any further into our family. As we made steps to that end, the evidence of contamination began to surface very quickly. We received counsel from friends, called on the Lord through prayer, sought answers in God's word, had many "intense" family discussions, and cried a lot (mostly in private where no one would know). Two of our children had seen the body of Christ at its worst and questioned the validity of those who claimed to be followers of Christ while perpetuating an institution that was opposed to the cause of the one they claimed to follow. Our youngest had one concern (oh the beauty of childhood innocence). He loved his Sunday School teacher, and his teacher loved him. They joked together, laughed together, and learned together. This man taught our youngest to enjoy Jesus. David's main concern was that he wanted to get his pictures from his Sunday School classroom. We went to get them, and he looked around without saying much. It wasn't until a few months later when we saw this man and his wife at a football game that we realized what David really missed was the relationship God had formed with this man. One of a few rare gems in a hurting body of Christ.

The winter in West Tennessee was the worst winter we had ever experienced. The weather was bad, too. We connected with a church about 30 minutes away from our hometown, and gradually our two older kids bonded with others in the youth group. The light began to shine ever so slightly. Conversations revealed that they could now see the difference that making wise, Godly choices will make in our lives. Relationships began to form that let us know they were beginning to understand that a person can be "unequally yoked" in many different ways. We praised God as we proceeded with caution in what seemed like His direction. 

This past Saturday was a monumental day for us. We celebrated two birthdays by going to a Mississippi State game in Starkville. Each kid could invite a friend. We travelled as a family and spent the day together. No conflict. No stress. We looked to the future as our oldest considers college. We just enjoyed each other for a whole day with no dark cloud or weary emotions. It was one of the best birthdays I have ever had. It was in the top of great days in my life. Joy has come in the morning.

A year has past. I would be misleading if I didn't say that many parts of the past year have been filled with light, namely our kids connection with the youth group, continued friendships we have with a few who remain faithful, renewed friendships with those who had been missed, lessons about the importance of fighting spiritual battles on the spiritual battlefield. I would also be misleading if I didn't say that we still have moments of struggle and spiritual attack. The difference the year makes is not as much in our circumstances as in our learning to be strong in our circumstances. Granted, some of the circumstances are more difficult to find strength in than others, yet the Lord is growing us one ray of light at a time. His word reminds us that the key to this strength is that "this book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have good success" (Josh. 1:8).

Maybe you are in a season of darkness. Could I encourage you to hang on to the Lord as tightly as you can? He loves you, and He wants the best for you. He will deliver you through the struggle. Maybe you are in a season of light. Could I encourage you to praise God for His blessing and to establish reminders of these times so you will have some anchors when the storms do come your way? You know that one day the storms will come. Find a group of Christ followers who are alive. Connect with them to draw from what God is doing in their lives. Alive looks different to different people, but we all know what alive means. Don't settle for the darkness when the the mercies of God are on the horizon. 

What a difference a year makes. Who knows what these next few months will hold? None of us really know what tomorrow may bring. The best we can do is press in hard to know the One who will surely bring tomorrow. 

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