Light for Our Dark Moments

I hope that all of you have enjoyed Christmas with your family and friends! As we approach a new year and reflect on the past moments of 2021, I want you to consider that Jesus is our Light.

Introductory Thoughts: Important Motiff and Imagery John 8:12

The apostle John in his Gospel of John, epistles, and Revelations frequently uses contrasting terms to present Jesus and the world. Two of the most obvious when reading through John’s writings are the concepts of darkness and light. As I wrote in my previous blog, John introduces Jesus in Chapter 1:4 as the “Light of Men.” Light in the Gospel of John represents goodness, truth, and God’s presence.

Interestingly, the great cathedrals of the Middle Ages emphasized light with massive windows and structural design(s) to allow maximum possible light.

John in verse 9 identifies Christ as “the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.” John wants us to understand that Jesus is God and that He enables us (enlightenment) to properly understand God the Father. Remember from last week’s blog that one of the main reasons for Jesus being born (Incarnation) was to reveal God the Father’s character and purpose for humanity.

Jesus reveals Himself as the Light of the world again in Chapter 8. This occurs after He writes in the sand as the Pharisees (representing religion and law) are ready to stone the adulterous woman. Jesus is the Light and gives us light to walk. What Jesus is saying is that He and His Life reveals the true path to God. The religious and spiritual laws don’t lead to God, but as Paul argues in Romans reveals our powerlessness to live God’s standard. God establishes His Law (Mosiac Laws/ Dueteronomy) to show us that we need something greater than ourselves or rules. A proper understanding of God’s Law leads one to understood the folly of self-righteousness. Jesus emphasizes this point when He talks about thoughts being as bad as the action (lust,murder).

Our good deeds and obedience can’t save us! This is the difference between religion and relationship. Religion gives us rules and we obey perfectly (impossible for sinners) to be righteous. Relationship with Christ depends on His grace, truth, and life to work in us to make us righteous before God. We all have a choice: we can fool ourselves into thinking that we can be righteous through ourselves or trust that Jesus can make us righteous (Substitutionary Atonement). For a description/definition and verses for this critical concept

Jesus Speaks to Grieving Martha John 11:25

John records Jesus’ reaction to Lazarus’ illness and death. One needs to remember that Lazarus was a close friend of Jesus. Jesus deeply loved him and his sisters Mary and Martha. Jesus allows Lazarus to die when He could have healed Him instantly. This thought is in Martha’s mind verses 21-22. As she grieves her loss, Jesus points her toward a much greater truth. Jesus reveals Himself to be “the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” Martha indicates that she does. Imagine how difficult this statement would be to hear! Lazarus believed in Christ yet he had already died! This seems contradictory from a human stand point!

Like many of God’s great truths: we can easily miss the meaning of what has happened. Jesus later restores Lazarus back to life, but he had died and would die again later in life. So what did Jesus really mean? For a detailed study on this:

Jesus is telling us that He is life and that He as a Person of the Trinity is the Resurrection. We tend (like the 1st century believers) to see the Resurrection as a future event, but it’s actually a Person and a relationship with Him!

The world and sin are darkness and Christ is the Light! Just as we face physically death, we also face the death of our dreams and hopes as well. Are you trusting Jesus to be the Light to guide and renew your walk with Him?

I enjoy studying theology and philosophy. While theology is about God, it can become more of an intellectual study and thought experiment than personal experience. Information and knowledge aren’t wisdom. Wisdom comes through relationship and experience. As an example, as we can know all the statistical facts about a favorite athlete or historical person yet not personally know him or her.

Jesus is a Person and by accepting His grace and truth, I can be in a Personal Relationship with Him! It’s through the relationship and trust/dependence that Light and Life flows into our lives.

As you reflect on the joys and sorrows you have experienced this past year, may God’s Perfect Son-Jesus enlighten you to perceive His mercy and presence!

Future blogs will explore broken dreams and how that God changes us through the process of grief and renewal. Consider your life through the Light of His Presence! Remember that Jesus is gentle in heart, patient, and kind! He will walk with you through the dark moments just as He does with Martha and Lazarus! Invite Him into your difficulties and sadness! May He bless and enlighten you as He works in your life!

For Christ’s glory and to encourage fellow pilgrims, I write these words

Lee Stanfill

God’s Gift to Us: His Son Jesus Post 3

Introduction to Post 3

As we consider how God shapes our lives through our broken dreams, let’s take a moment to consider the greatest gift God gives! The apostle John opens his Gospel of John in verses four and five with:

In Him was life, and the life was the Light of mankind. And the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not grasp it.

God sent His Only Son to proclaim His Kingdom, redeem our lost souls, and conqueror sin and death forever. Jesus’ birth was a divine invasion! God sent His Son on a mission of conquest and redemption. Got questions lists four reasons why God sent Jesus with supporting verses:

Jesus is the Gift of Light! The “darkness” of verse five refers to the evil, worldly system that Jesus defeats through His death and resurrection. Quick read on this:

As we consider Christ’s coming, how does this apply to our lives in relation to our dreams and brokenness? How does Christ transform us?

Point 1: Jesus The Light of Life Makes Us Right

We know from personal experience (just read the news) that our world isn’t what it should be! Some look to political, economic, and even social remedies for our nations’ numerous problems. Governments and governing authorities are established by God as part of His general grace Romans 13:1. However, government laws, economic systems, and a better society can’t remove the sin problem that underlies all of our brokenness! The real issue is the sin that plagues our hearts and minds. We need a Redeemer!

When we see unfairness and injustice in life, we need to remember that:

1.Jesus experienced the most unfair treatment possible: His own people and the Romans brutally executed Him,

2. and Jesus’ own disciples betrayed and abandoned Him.

3. Jesus carried the enormous weight of all the collective sins of humanity on the cross. In short, Jesus suffered so that God would forgive and renew us. He restores those who trust in Him to a proper relationship with God the Father. Jesus made all things anew!

What does this mean for us? First and foremost, it means that Jesus saves us when we trust and depend on Him for righteousness and new life. Second, Jesus understands our struggles. Hebrews 4:15 reveals Jesus as our High Priest who can “sympathize with our weaknesses” as He was “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:16 commands us to “draw near with confidence the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Third, we can rest in God’s grace knowing that in love He sent His Son to redeem the world (John 3:16). God knows the true depth of our despair and need for redemption! He took effective action! He doesn’t leave us lost in darkness! Yet, we must recognize then confess our sinful ways and repent while trusting Him to make us anew!

We need to live our lives as God’s people, sharing His truth with others, and seeking to serve those in need around us. To be changed by God involves a desire for Him to work through our lives for His redemptive purpose(s) for the lost around us!

Point 2: Jesus is the Answer!

Several years ago, I worked on third shift. During the long winter months, after being in the dark for hours, it was amazing to see the sun rise each morning. The sunrise served as a reminder that the darkness would eventually end. The holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Years is a difficult time for people who have lost significant others. Each holiday can be a painful reminder of who isn’t any longer present.

We need to be sensitive of this reality for our friends, neighbors, and others we encounter in our lives. The pandemic, tornadoes, and other tragedies have affected many this year. Others are dealing with job/career, relationship losses, and other uncertainties in life.

As I have written in previous blogs, grief and loss with shattered dreams are part of our faith journey. Jesus is the answer! I hope that as you read and meditate on God’s Word that you will ask questions and seek God’s truth in His Son Jesus. And when God enlightens you encourage others! The best truths are those that we live and share with others!

Point 3: Jesus is New Life and Truth

Jesus is our Light, Life, and Truth!

Have you ever wondered what Jesus means when He says: “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” John 8:32? Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me” John 14:6. Jesus is teaching about His role in giving us freedom. We don’t have to be defined and held captive by our grief, broken dreams, and failed hopes! This author sums up what it means to be transformed by truth in a beautifully concise manner:

To know and trust Jesus is to be changed by Him! Jesus offers new life, hope, and dreams that are greater than our “lesser” desires (blog 1 of this series). The world and its desires entrap us into a cycle of sin, despair, and increasing darkness. Jesus provides true and abundant life. For a good explanation of abundant life:

As we daily walk with Christ, we realize that the materialistic world system can’t give us meaning or contentment. As children who received toys for Christmas, we should remember the lesson that no matter how great or new the toy, the excitement eventually ends.

The excitement never ends with Christ! He will encourage and challenge you as you seek Him first above all else! May Christ’s presence enlighten your steps on your journey of faith!

Lee Stanfill

Shattered Dreams Blog #2

How do the events and circumstances of our lives relate to God and His movement within?

Oswald Chambers in his December 18 “Test of Faithfulness” gives us some practical and valuable insights! All quotations are from this powerful devotional.

Introductory Thoughts

Are the events of our lives random? Do you recognize the “hands” of God upon your life as you experience daily life? The testimony of the Living Words of God reminds us that God is always at work moving and shaping us into being more Christlike. Things don’t just happen randomly! The challenge comes when we don’t understand and can’t perceive what’s going on in our lives. Yet, we can trust and depend on God to finish the work that He has begun in us! Philippians 1:6 . This is especially important when we are facing times of brokenness and disappointment. Quick explanation of Philippians 1:6:

I believe with good reason that God brings or allows failures, trials, and disappointment(s) into our lives to cause us to seek Him first. I use the terms “brings or allows” because as humans, we don’t fully comprehend the bigger picture nor can we completely understand an Infinite God. Even in my own life, I don’t understand what God brings about or necessarily what He allows. I’ve learned to be especially cautious when presuming to understand God’s Hidden Ways. Yet, we can trust even what we don’t understand because we know that God is Good and His Ways perfect! Romans chapter 8 is a good read for this topic!

Jesus warns the church of Ephesus in Revelation 2:4 about losing their “first love.” We too must hear and heed Christ’s Words! Here’s a concise read about what Jesus means in Rev. 2:4:

How easy and quick it is to love our comfort, earthly treasures, and dreams more than our Savior! It is truly an act of mercy when our disappointments and failures turn our eyes heavenward!

Insight 1: We must believe God is in Control and Be Loyal to Him first!

“It is only a faithful person who truly believes that God sovereignly controls his circumstances. We take our circumstances for granted, saying God is in control, but not really believing it. We act as if the things that happen were completely controlled by people. To be faithful in every circumstance means that we have only one loyalty, or object of our faith— the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Our ultimate loyalty must be to Christ alone–not our family, friends, work, etc. We would be wise to consider what God might be working to bring about in us! We need to view our lives through faith knowing that God has a plan and is at work!

May God’s Presence in your life cause you to radiate His love and mercy for others!
Insight 2: Events test our faithfulness

“God may cause our circumstances to suddenly fall apart, which may bring the realization of our unfaithfulness to Him for not recognizing that He had ordained the situation. We never saw what He was trying to accomplish, and that exact event will never be repeated in our life. This is where the test of our faithfulness comes.”

God’s Word particularly in the Old Testament books of Ruth and Esther reveal that God works through history. The term ordain means to “set aside something for a specific use.” This means specifically that God has a plan and a way to accomplish the plan. God works behind the scenes through tragic deaths, famine, and heart-ache (Ruth) to bring about King David and later Jesus. God works through Esther to save her people. Daniel, Isaiah, and Jeremiah also teaches that God works through foreign nations, national tragedies(invasions, military defeats, etc) to accomplish His purposes. The Christmas Account in Luke chapter two reveals how God uses a Roman census to fulfill prophecy! There are numerous other accounts I could mention here concerning how God works through the lives of individuals and nations to accomplish His plans.

I write this to encourage you: specifically stating that you don’t have to have a complete understanding of the events and what each particular event might mean. This is where faith comes into play! We choose to trust God even when we can’t understand. We demonstrate faithfulness when we trust and reach out to God! We continue to trust and seek even when things are uncertain and perplexing.

that we would be rivers of life flowing into the lives of others
Insight 3: The Ultimate Goal of Faithfulness

“The goal of faithfulness is not that we will do work for God, but that He will be free to do His work through us. God calls us to His service and places tremendous responsibilities on us. He expects no complaining on our part and offers no explanation on His part. God wants to use us as He used His own Son.”

The end game is for us to become like Jesus and for God to work in our lives just as His Son! God’s plan is bigger than our dreams, hopes, and shattered expectations for a comfortable life! God is showing mercy when He wakes us up from our soul slumber and selfish ways.

We would be wise to pray for God to give us dreams of His plans! Holy Spirit and God’s Word will mold and shape us into the wonderful works of art that please Him most!

May God touch your life and dreams in a manner that will forever change you for His Glory,

Lee Stanfill

Introduction: Shattered Dreams Series

We will face times of trial and trouble in our lives. Just as there are seasons in weather, so we too encounter seasons in our journey of faith. One of the more difficult seasons of faith comes when our dreams, hopes, and plans “shatter” and fall apart. It’s easy to become angry and bitterly disappointed with God during these hard moments. We face tough questions such as:

Is God really good? Is He for me and if so why isn’t He making things better?

Can I trust a God who seems to be hidden, distant, and uninvolved?

Why are these things happening? I trusted God and have tried to honor Him with my life?

I hope that you will join me as we consider how that God is actually work for us and in our lives during these difficult, dark moments!

I strongly recommend that you purchase and read Larry Crabb’s book: Shattered Dreams: God’s Unexpected Path to Joy. I will be discussing quotes from this work. You will benefit from reading this book for yourself.

The Choice we face-Central Truth

“When the dream of experiencing now what is reserved for us in heaven is decisively shattered and when the shattering is embraced and not fought, either we’ll sink into despair or we will hope in God, and wait as faith becomes a firmer foundation and godly love of life. . .The shattering of our deepest dream of fulfillment in the present becomes (1). the unexpected pathway to the the happiness Jesus knew during His life on earth the happiness of (2). trusting God, (3). serving others, and (4). confidently waiting for complete happiness in being reunited with God in paradise forever.” introduction xi-numbers added for clarity by me

Our greatest happiness comes in the three things mentioned above! Trusting God, serving others, and patiently waiting for perfect union with God enables us to live for Christ/His glory as opposed to seeking self-fulfillment through worldly, lesser, selfish things.

Larry discusses how that we as natural humans tend to desire “lesser things” such as a “good” life. He reminds us “He’s (God) determined to give us an encounter with Himself. It’s the greatest blessing He can think of. . . An encounter with Him is what we want, but we don’t know it.” pg 3

God, because of His Infinite Mercy and Goodness will bring difficulties into our lives so that we will begin to desire Him more than what we consider to be the good things.

The “good things” are hindering us from God! Let’s think about this for a moment! Carefully consider what you are seeking in your life. Do you seek relationships, material prosperity, health, career, etc. more than you desire God? If we’re being honest before God and with ourselves, we recognize that our greatest efforts and striving in life are for things other than God. We want the blessing(s) more than we want God Himself!

I want you to consider that it’s a merciful God who allows our “lesser” dreams and hopes to fail! As long as we pursue our dreams and ideas of the “good” life then we’re not really pursuing God! Larry reminds us:

Through the pain of shattered lower dreams, we wake up to the realization that we want an encounter with God more than we want the blessings of life. . . Our shattered dreams are never random. They are always a piece in a larger puzzle, a chapter in a larger story.”

The suffering caused by shattered dreams must not be thought of as something to relieve if we can or endure if we must. It’s an opportunity to be embraced, a chance to discover our desire for the highest blessing God wants to give us, an encounter with Himself. pg 4

Three Truths to Consider

I want to invite you to prayerfully reflect on the following three truths Larry presents (my reflection follows in line below each truth) on pages 4-5.

1. God wants to bless you

God desires to bless us! God loves us perfectly and works to draw us closer to Him. Often our discouragement, difficulties, and feelings of dissatisfaction are signs that God is starting a greater work in us! Remember that the greatest blessing is God’s Presence–not His blessings or good things in our lives!

2. The deepest pleasure we’re capable of experiencing is a direct encounter with God.

The book of Job reveals this truth. Job’s questions and difficulties are satisfied when God appears. All the great men of faith in the Old Testament were profoundly changed by God’s appearance. The apostles and early Christians were remade by Christ’s presence and influence as well. We need God’s presence and an encounter ourselves! Yet we mistakenly pursue lesser things because we wrongly believe such lesser things will fill the “void” we feel in our hearts. God knows us and works to move us forward! He doesn’t leave us stuck in our small, safe self-made worlds.

3. So the Holy Spirit awakens that appetite (to encounter God). He uses the pain of shattered dreams to help us discover our desire for God, to help us begin dreaming the highest dream. Shattered dreams are not accidents of fate. They are ordained opportunities for the Spirit to waken then to satisfy our highest dream.

While we may dislike the shattering of our dreams and hopes, there is a greater purpose! I want to encourage you to deeply consider your life and dreams. Let God’s Word and Holy Spirit guide you as He works to “satisfy our highest dream”!

I write this post as a person who grieves the loss of “lesser” things. Yet, I also recognize God’s mercy in bringing about the death of my lesser desires/dreams. The real danger isn’t that we face loss or discouragement in our journeys, but that we continue to live satisfied and seeking the wrong things! God may not seem kind or compassionate when He causes or allows career and other types of failures into our lives.

During these times we need to remember the central truth that God is Perfectly Good and Just. All we endure is part of His Plan for our lives. I want to end this post with this truth from Larry from page 7:

“The road will take us through some dark nights, but you need not wait for morning to rejoice. Morning will come, but can welcome your suffering now as an opportunity to meet God, to encounter Him with a passion that will free you to get close to a few people in authentic community and to experience genuine transformation in your personal life, especially in the way you love others.”

For God’s glory and the encouragement of fellow pilgrims, I type these words,

Lee Stanfill

Desiring God: Hope for You!

I concluded my last blog post with these words from Larry Crabb which have encouraged me on my daily walk with God:

You will not completely stop sinning. Repentance is required every day. But redemption, regeneration, and reconciliation-the wonder of grace makes it possible for the sinner and the saint you are to enjoy God’s love and spread it around.

Struggle as you must. Fail when you do. Repent quickly, celebrate grace, and keep on, resolute in your thirst to know the love of God more and more deeply.

Each day is a new opportunity to love God and others more! Yet, our brokenness and past failures stalk our thoughts and attempts to desire God more. We all daily face the reality that we are not what we want to be and that progress is slow, hard work. Sometimes writing encouragement blogs and creating videos is a painful job. I press ahead because I know that if just one person is encouraged then it is worth it. The hardest part is accepting that often, I won’t know if there is any impact. It’s easy to get caught up in number of views instead of trusting that God will work in ways that I may never be aware of.

In my introduction video, I explain that as we are on a journey of faith likewise we are on a journey of desiring God. I believe that faith and desire are together! As your faith and dependence on God increases so will your desire for Him! We see this in Abraham as he gradually comes to trust and obey God more with each “stage” of his journey. When God instructs him to sacrifice Isaac, he doesn’t delay but acts in faith. I believe that Abraham was able to obey because he desired God more than God’s promise(s) to him. He knew that God would fulfill His promises. God required that he would trust and obey. Abraham failed, repented, and kept trusting God. Can the same be said of us?

Failures and Setbacks in our life/faith struggles

You’re not alone in your struggles and difficulties! As I have written numerous times before in this blog, to walk with God is to struggle with our fallen nature/sinful desires. Every human is fallen and broken. This is central to properly understanding the Gospel. We all have sinned and fallen short. No one is righteous, not one according to God’s Righteous Judgement. And Paul makes it clear that even when we desire to do good (obeying God’s righteous laws) we still do evil.

Some of my favorite men of faith (New Testament) were dismal failures. Think about Peter and how he betrayed/denied Christ. Peter essential did the same thing as Judas the betrayer. Yet Jesus restores him in due season and entrusts him with a greater task. Peter becomes the most influential leader of the early church. John Mark is another great example of someone who fails but later proves helpful to Paul.

God doesn’t define or relate to us according to our failures! He relates to us through His Son’s Redeeming work in our lives. That’s the wonderful truth about grace and redemption: It’s not about us or our goodness or even capability for goodness! It’s all about God’s grace and how we accept and apply His Abounding, Unmerited Loving-kindness to our lives. Jesus didn’t die to make us good, religious humans! He died to restore us into the proper relationship with God the Father and God Holy Spirit. It’s all about Jesus and His mercy and goodness! It’s not about our feeble attempts. For an example in our lives, consider how and why your mother or father (or significant other) loves you. Mothers and fathers love their kids not because of what the child can be or do but because the little human is their offspring! Significant others love us because of a relationship-the shared good memories, fun times, and bonding.

When we fail, we tend to focus on ourselves instead of looking up to our Heavenly Father! I am certainly guilty of this myself. We become too concerned about ourselves and what we have done or failed to do instead of trusting in God to work it out. Guess that’s part of our fallen nature–we hide and lie instead of clinging to the One who perfectly loves us!

My advice and prayer for you is that you will cast yourself into the arms of Jesus! Let Him embrace you in your moments of darkness and brokenness. Then as He restores and heals you, share His love and care for others around you who need you! To be loved by God is to love others and proclaim what God has done for you.

May God’s abounding love and grace encourage and uplift you! In Christ Alone can we stand and find true fulfillment for our lives!

Lee Stanfill

Desiring God: Blog 2


Perhaps the best place to start in desiring God is to admit that we often don’t desire God as much as we should. Quotes are from Freedom from the Incurable Addiction to Self Waiting for Heaven by Larry Crabb unless otherwise noted. Pastor Carey reminds us:

So, then how do we proceed? First, we need to be honest with where we are at! God’s Holy Spirit gives us discernment and wisdom to recognize the state of our hearts. Larry Crabb mentions that it’s a great mercy to be “exposed by God” pg. 104. We have to first recognize the problem in order to address it. The Book of James and 1 John are great places to dive deep into God’s Living Word! I would recommend that you consider reading through these books and making notes in your prayer/reading journal!

Starting Place: God’s Forgiveness and Acceptance of you

I have found that during times when I am hurting; I will desire other things in place of God because I want “immediate” relief or satisfaction. The wrong things (lesser desires) and relational problems that we rely on for self-satisfaction can then become “addictions. Larry reminds us:

God knows your suffering, every moment of it, every pain lodged in your soul. He grieves with you. But He does not excuse your self-protective way of relating. Nor does He understand it as a reasonable reaction to suffering. He does something better. He forgives you! pg 105

He goes to mention that we often “self-medicate” ourselves with various sinful habits or pleasures. He recommends that we recognize this and realize that we can “share so richly in the Father’s love for His Son that addictions lose their seemingly irresistible power” pg 106.

Recognize that Faith and Desire for God are part of a larger journey wherein we daily walk with God through our lives

Abraham, Moses, Elijah, and the others mentioned in the roll call of faith in Hebrews 11 have much to teach us about walking with God. That’s why I wrote numerous blogs about each of these giants of faith! These writings are available on this blog site. We aren’t alone nor are we ignorant concerning how to walk with and please God. God’s Word exists to encourage and correct us on this journey! Remember the role of God’s Holy Spirit. He’s the Paraclete or helper. For a good introduction to our Great Counselor:

Practical Considerations/Counsel Points (Larry Crabb) pgs. 107-108

These counsels are direct quotes (italics) with my commentary below.

  1. Be where you are! Live in your darkness, your confusion, your struggle, your failure. It’s your best chance for meeting God. He tends to meet us where we are, not where we pretend to be or wish we were. You long to be wanted–at your worst.

Our God is a gracious God! He already knows us and where we are at. The problem is that we want to pretend and hide. This goes all the way back to the Garden when Adam and Eve tried to hide from God! Being honest and open with God opens the door for true change and healing in our desires! God loves us so much more than we are capable of understanding!

2. Talk to someone else. Pray for someone to be with you, not to help, sympathize, correct, or scold. . . when you’re with someone, new thoughts come to mind; hope rekindles.

Friends and mentors are a blessing from God! However, it’s vital that we are honest, open, and willing to receive prayer and guidance. I recommend a trusted pastor or mature church member. We need to be held accountable–someone to ask us the hard questions and remind us to stay focused on Christ especially when the storms of life blow into us!

3. Keep talking with God, in conversational prayer. Own and express the ugly truth that you know what it means to enjoy evil. Don’t back away from that heinous reality by thinking of someone who failed more miserably.

Larry reminds us to consider Paul in context of Romans 7:19. I would recommend praying through Psalm 51. Psalm 51 is King David’s confession to God after his affair and murder. We need to own our sinfulness and hope/trust in God’s forgiving grace! It’s only when we realize how bad we really are that God’s grace becomes real and necessary! Paul understood this and endured many fiery trials and suffering! He endured because he realized just how much God had forgiven him and wanted to proclaim God’s truth!

4. Keep talking. You’ll know when it’s time to listen, when you’re desperate to know how God is responding to all you’ve said.

God’s Word will come alive through the indwelling Holy Spirit! Take time to reflect on your prayer journal! Write down the important truths that you read in scripture and what’s going on in your life. Months later you can then look back and consider what God has done!

5. Let Gospel truth burn deeply in a desperate, humbled soul.

Closing reflection points

You will not completely stop sinning. Repentance is required every day. But redemption, regeneration, and reconciliation-the wonder of grace makes it possible for the sinner and the saint you are to enjoy God’s love and spread it around.

Struggle as you must. Fail when you do. Repent quickly, celebrate grace, and keep on, resolute in your thirst to know the love of God more and more deeply.

May God richly bless you on your journey of faith! I write these words as a fellow pilgrim wanting to know and love God and others more richly with each passing day!

Lee Stanfill

Desiring God: Blog Part 1

Thanks for joining me for part 1 of the blog Desiring God P1. For Part one, I want to introduce the idea of our desires. Part two will be some practical considerations to help us improve our desires. All quotes will be from Larry Crabbs’ Freedom from the Incurable Addiction to Self: Waiting for Heaven unless otherwise noted. To begin, I want to ask you three reflective questions. I recommend making time to answer these questions in your prayer/meditation journal:

Prayerfully answering the questions will help you to discern areas in your life that may need adjustment. Understand that I write this blog as a human who also struggles with desire. Desire isn’t an inherently evil or harmful aspect of our lives! Yet the sources and object(s) of our mistaken desires leads to harm to ourselves and others.

C.S. Lewis describes our desires as being lacking and centered on the wrong things (emphasis mine):

It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. C. S. Lewis (2009). “Weight of Glory”, p.26, Harper Collins–AZ Quotes

Our consumer-driven economy, political, and even religious influences tend to emphasize materialistic, self-pleasing, and comfortable living that we can control! Does our culture emphasize personal success, wealth, influence, and power as the best things to desire and strive to obtain? How much energy and resources do we invest in educating ourselves and seeking better employment opportunities? Do we not vote for candidates who agree with us or say the things we want to hear? What about our church attendance and participation? Do we not tend to seek comfort and like minded people over authentic living as we pretend to be okay/all together in church?

I am guilty of all of the above! I too want a good paying but low stress job/career where I am valued and have input. Is it wrong to invest in college and graduate studies to prepare for success in your chosen field? These things in and of themselves aren’t necessary wrong–but like any good thing that is corrupted by evil–they become idols that we daily pour ourselves into. As I will argue later in this blog, this leaves us broken and alienated from God, ourselves, and others.

Main Point!

I want to make the argument that we not only desire the wrong things, but that we don’t desire the right things enough! Here are three observations on this considering our human nature:

  1. We desire most strongly the things that give us the most immediate pleasure and sense of fulfillment in our lives–we want it and we want it now! (Think about kids on Christmas morning when presents are visible under the tree!)
  2. We desire to be in control and informed about most aspects of our lives. Simply, we want to have choices and make decisions. We will at times manipulate and use others to get what we want selfishly!
  3. We often feel unfulfilled, sad, anxious, maybe even depressed when things don’t go the way we want them to. Life becomes about “me” or “I”–I want to have my way.

Once again I want to make the point that seeking fulfillment is a natural, God designed element of our lives that He intends to use for our good! Being in control of ourselves and seeking to make wise decisions are part of maturing as Christians. Multiple scripture passages come to mind here. When our desires and needs aren’t fulfilled it’s going to be painful. This pain can cause us to reflect on what’s really going on. All healthy relationships are a balancing act wherein we give and receive. Appropriate, mature relationships with others involve boundaries and self-sacrifice/giving with an openness to receive as well. Our emotions are a gift from God! Much like a warning light on your car dashboard alerts you to serious issues–our emotions can alert us to areas of our lives that need God’s redemptive touch!

2 Core Truths from Larry Crab

1. Only Christianity and the Christ of Christianity can lead us into the life the human soul was designed to live, and can therefore most enjoy” pg. 94

Larry reminds us that a “person draws others to Christ by illustrating that only the truth of the Gospel can satisfy a human soul as much as it can be satisfied while still living in this evil world as a not yet glorified person.” pg. 94

He also explains how our failures and conviction can lead us to being more open to Holy Spirit’s work. How we live out our journeys of faith is important! Others are watching. The world, our careers, relationships, etc. can’t complete or fully satisfy us!

2. Only the three Person God is telling a soul-satisfying story that will reach its forever satisfying consummation when for a second time, God will look at all He created ad declare “It is good! It’s very good!” pg 95

As followers of Christ, our hopes rest on the promise that God will redeem all things and make the world anew. As we wait for Him, we can grow in our dependence and love for Him. God’s plan is to bring all things together and for us to be one with Him as before the fall in Genesis 3. I would like for you to take some time to carefully read John Chapter 17. Consider carefully the words of Christ as He prays to His Father!

C.S. Lewis writes in his book The Problem of Pain:

“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

As we face broken dreams, unfulfilled desires, we can realize that God is renewing our thirst for Him! If we are consumed with love of the world and the many fine things it offers us, then we “reflexively dull that thirst, to be directed by lesser thirsts who satisfaction I may be able to manage, to gain satisfaction on demand, under my control.” pg 98

Larry encourages us:

When troubles come we are to treat them as an opportunity for something good to develop in our mind and heart (James 1:2-4). Two clear options present themselves: run from God in angry despair . . . or tremble and trust, lament over fallenness in yourself, others and the world, but trust Him to bring you into the Son’s enjoyment of the Father’s love, crying from your heart exactly, knowing it is to that He is unalterably committed. pg 99

What is God “unalterably committed”? God sent Jesus to redeem us so that we would live and have our being in fellowship with God the Father, God the Son Jesus Christ, and God Holy Spirit. As I’ve written in previous posts, to follow God is to turn away from the world and it’s many pleasures/false idols.

Final Quote

Central truth to remember is found on page 96

“Because of regeneration, of being made alive to God, alive in Christ, and alive with the Holy Spirit, the most compelling thirst in the soul of a Christian is a thirst for holiness, to know the God of love and to live to make Him known.”

God makes us anew! We are new creatures with new desires! May God guide and enlighten you on your path!

I write these words to you as one who has followed lesser desires too and God gracefully drew me back!

Lee Stanfill

Moses: Choosing Hardship: Waiting on God Blog #2

Post Introduction

All quotes in this blog post come from Larry Crabb’s Waiting for Heaven Chapter 6: “Foolish Choices”

I am using these quotes to encourage you to consider various truths and concepts. Please consider purchasing Larry Crabb’s book Waiting for Heaven. This is a good read that will encourage you in your faith journey.

The purpose of my sharing quotes on this blog is not for personal profit, but for religious education and discussion that individuals freely seek out on this free, public blog post.

In the previous post, I present three things that Moses turned away from in his journey of faith. In this writing, I want to consider three things Moses turned toward. Considering all the many mighty movements/miracles and signs God demonstrates in Exodus, have you ever considered the miracle of Moses’ faith? For an Almighty God who created the entirety of the universe and world in six days, the multiple signs of Exodus would have been easy! Yet, the real work and miracle of God comes about in creating faith in fallen people! I want you to carefully meditate on how God enabled Moses to choose to turn toward to Him. God’s call is what empowers us to keep seeking and depending on Him. Each morning when God graciously provides us with a new day, we too must choose to turn to God or follow our own way or the world’s. May these quotes and reflections encourage you! I would recommend reading them multiple times and making notes on how they apply to your particular life/situation.

Moses Turned to Suffering and Mistreatment

“First Moses chose suffering, misfortune, and abuse or as Hebrews put it, he chose mistreatment. (pg. 42)” Moses suffered from the Egyptians and even his own people when he first struck down the Egyptian abusing Hebrews. After God delivered the people from Egypt, the Hebrews frequently complained against Moses and accused him of leading them to their deaths in the desert. Moses endured much during his forty years as shepherd to the people!

Larry asks an important question: “I wonder: had Moses known what was coming, would he have chosen a path that would lead to suffering, such mistreatment and abuse, with so little apparent help from God (pg. 44)?” Perhaps it’s a great mercy that God doesn’t reveal what we will have to suffer lest we walk away in fear and doubt!

“Every Christian who demonstrates his or her faith in God by persevering, every Christian who waits for tomorrow committed to living faithfully today will in some measure be blessed by the “privilege of suffering” for Christ (Philippians 1:29). Is any privilege less desired? Less welcomed? Will we endure? Will we wait in hope of the glory to come? Waiting is not easy” pg 44.

This is a universal truth that scripture presents from Genesis to Revelation: there is a cost for having faith and following God! History and scripture presents multiple saints who faced all types of hardships, abuse, neglect, and murderous hatred from the world for the sake of Christ. Do we recognize our modern tendency to seek comfort, certainty, and prosperity? Perhaps God has something much better for us! I am certain that God will when we submit to His way of suffering instead of self-fulfillment.

Larry reminds us of two great truths that will help you when suffering (page 45)

“Two truths will help us gain perspective that a long difficult season can be viewed as both welcomed and short.” Paraphrase: first the time between the Cross and the Coming, not just time between our birth and death, our years spent living in a broken world is short compared to all of eternity. “It is then that life as fully healed people in a fully healed world begins, when Jesus returns. And two, we can trust that God’s Spirit is always doing eternally significant work in our souls, even during the worst of our “little while.”

In other words, we can find peace in knowing that our lives and suffering moments are “short” compared to the eternal glory and happiness we will enjoy with Christ. Also, we can have hope knowing that God is working in our souls even during the most difficult moments.

Second, Moses chose the company of a despised and broken people.

“Moses chose a difficult life.” Even after forty years away from the Hebrew people, Moses endured forty years of complaining, false accusations, and rebellion against him. “Moses kept ministering to people who everyday annoyed him, simply because God wanted him to do so. Moses waited for tomorrow while remaining faithful today pg 46″. Larry reminds us that from a worldly perspective Moses would have been better to remain in Egypt and use his position as prince to lightened the load on the slaves. Yet he waited on God as God had a greater deliverance in plan! The patience and long suffering of Moses is evidence of God’s miraculous work as Moses never truly gave up. This is something that’s easy to miss when reading Exodus and Deuteronomy.

What might God have you to endure in order to serve Him faithfully? We too will face disrespect, rebellion, and complaining when trying to lead and serve others. Personal experience serving (teacher and minister) reminds me that the people who need love and ministry often resist the most.

Third, Moses chose reproach and rebuke; he chose personally humiliating suffering.

Larry reminds us: “Loving others as Christ loves us too often takes a back seat to protecting ourselves from relational pain. It is a rare person so centered in God’s love that reproach is perhaps difficult to handle but not devastating at some deep internal level. Jesus suffered far more that Moses ever experienced: three years of apparently failed ministry. pgs47-48″

Have you ever been emotionally distant or uninvolved with others because you knew that getting close might be painful, undesirable, or involve rejection? This is one of our worst fears: to be ignored, rejected, publicly ridiculed, despised by others! It can keep us from being truly free to love and minister to others. If we are honest, we will admit that often this is the case and why that we fail to love others like Christ.

I would be dishonest if I claimed that I haven’t fought this battle myself. Yet, we can overcome this by reflecting on Moses’ and Jesus’ examples. We can daily trust His Holy Spirit to guide us through our fears, doubts, and uncertainty! Larry gives some encouraging insights into Jesus and Moses (pages 48-49).

First, “Jesus never lost confidence that a story of fathomless love, matchless goodness, and stunning mercy was unfolding. He believed the climax would be worth the cost. Jesus waited.” Jesus had confidence in His Heavenly Father’s plans for Him. So can we! Even when others reject and despise us we can remain faithful and true to the One Who Paid for All our Sins!

Second, Larry refers to a process of “the emptiness of self, the loss of pride, releases us to receive fullness of soul as we undertake His business.” Moses’ time in the desert and doubts at the burning bush were part of his journey. God calls the unworthy and doubting! It is better to know that we’re unworthy, powerless, and to doubt our own abilities than to be prideful and self-assured!

Third, even our broken dreams can’t stop God’s plans. Even though Moses was faithful and patient many times, God denied him the privilege of going into the Promised Land because he struck the rock instead of speaking to it. From a human perspective, this seems unfair, but from God’s perspective this punishment was necessary. The following Got Questions blog provides a good explanation for God’s punishment:

Larry rightfully states: “Shattered dreams can make faithful perseverance especially difficult. But Moses still waited. . . No doubt Moses was waiting both in sorrow over disappointment and in hope of a greater reward yet to come: a wonderful picture of what it means to wait. pg 49″ The message here is that even when we fail horribly, God’s not done! In talking with various people over the years, I have encountered some who run from God because of their sins/failures. The greatest miracles of God are worked in our hearts! When we choose to trust Him and abandon ourselves to His Great Grace and Mercy we find Abundant and Eternal Life!

God showed Moses the Promised Land from Mt. Nebo. God brought Moses and Elijah to meet Jesus at the Transfiguration of Christ. Moses meets the Promised One/Messiah in person! This is very important to remember as Moses and Elijah were the Prophets of God! They were foreshadowing the Great Prophet Jesus!

Closing Quote and Remarks

Larry identifies God’s call to each of us as:

To resist quitting on obedience and on arranging for our own relief and pleasure when life gets rough. With resolve fueled by faith, we are to wait for the Lord’s return, with even greater fervency when our dreams for this life shatter. Waiting for the Second Coming can go a long way in helping us quit looking for pleasurable relief as an entitled pursuit. Relief is coming. And Joy forever.” pg 49

We each face a choice in life. We can walk by faith knowing that there will be difficulties and persecution or we can make “peace” with our world and live for ourselves. Moses and Jesus’ lives give us insight into what’s possible when God lives through us! I hope and pray that we will be found living in faith and joyful anticipation of Christ’s return when He appears in the sky!

In the coming months, I plan to write on the topic of broken dreams. It would be easy for you to assume that since I study and write that I have overcome broken dreams and fears in my own life. I share with you valuable insights that God has both blessed and convicted me. I am on a journey of faith. At times the journey isn’t easy, but it is worth it! God is Good and He has never forsaken or abandoned me even in my failures and dark moments. I write these words with the purpose of glorifying God through encouraging His people! May you personally experience His love and grace!

In Christ Alone I stand,

Lee Stanfill

Christ: Our Focal Point

Quotes and Thoughts Source: Oswald Chambers Devotional Faith or Experience Nov. 13

Central Scripture: Galatians 2:20

20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

What can we base our understanding and daily devotion to Christ on? Chambers rightly reminds us that our experience(s) and understanding isn’t a firm foundation. We must focus ourselves on Christ’s example and power!

He encourages us to “battle through our moods, feelings, and emotions into absolute devotion to the Lord Jesus. We must break out of our own little world of experience into abandoned devotion to Him.” Our experiences are insufficient because God is so vastly great and powerful! If we base our focus on what we have experienced, then we are only perceiving a small portion of our Great God. We need to consider what faith in Christ means:

“Think what faith in Jesus Christ claims and provides— He can present us faultless before the throne of God, inexpressibly pure, absolutely righteous, and profoundly justified.”

Chambers reminds us to:

“continually focus and firmly place our faith in Jesus Christ— not a “prayer meeting” Jesus Christ, or a “book” Jesus Christ, but the New Testament Jesus Christ, who is God Incarnate, and who ought to strike us dead at His feet. Our faith must be in the One from whom our salvation springs. Jesus Christ wants our absolute, unrestrained devotion to Himself. We can never experience Jesus Christ, or selfishly bind Him in the confines of our own hearts.”

Ultimately, “Our faith must be built on strong determined confidence in Him.” God’s Word gives us confidence that Jesus saves us completely and perfectly in His Abounding Grace. Since Jesus gave up His life for us, we can walk (which means to live) by faith and not by sight alone [2 Corinthians 5:6-7].

Oswald reminds us that “All of our fears are sinful, and we create our own fears by refusing to nourish ourselves in our faith. How can anyone who is identified with Jesus Christ suffer from doubt or fear! Our lives should be an absolute hymn of praise resulting from perfect, irrepressible, triumphant belief.”

We can have triumphant faith by turning our eyes and hearts toward the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2)! When the journey seems impossible and our hearts become weary, we need to consider Christ (Hebrews 12:3).

Because Christ lives and intercedes for us at God’s Right Hand, we can endure and persevere in living triumphantly! Let us set ourselves on the firm foundation of God’s Revealed Truth in His Living Word. May God remind you of His Great Mercies and Perfect Goodness as you walk on your pilgrimage of faith!

L. Stanfill

Moses: Choosing to wait Part 1

Introduction: Quick Overview of Moses

In studying any great person of faith, we need the proper focus in which to glean Biblical truths. The following truths are applicable in focusing on individuals

  1. the real hero and star of every account is God–God reveals Himself as He works through various individuals to accomplish His redemptive plan in Scriptures
  2. even the “heroes” of faith as listed in Hebrews 11 were sinful, flawed human beings totally dependent on God’s mercy and grace (like us!).

Moses was a “miracle” baby. God’s special plan for him began when Pharaoh’s daughter found him in the Nile River. He received an Egyptian education, was considered a “Prince of Egypt” prior to his attempt to rescue his own people at age 40. As previously mentioned in my earlier blog post, he spends forty years in the desert tending sheep prior to God’s call and the events of the Exodus.

Moses is considered a prophet of God as he is crucial in the history and religious development of the Hebrew people. Moses is the author of the Pentateuch (five books–Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy). Moses later appears with Elijah to meet with Jesus during the Transfiguration of Christ. Moses was obviously a noted leader and shepherd to the Hebrew people. When God threatened to destroy the rebellious people, Moses interceded and God relented.

However, I want to point out that Moses himself wasn’t allowed to enter the Promised Land because he hit the rock instead of speaking to it as God commanded. God revealed to Moses that the Hebrews would ultimately be sent into exile for idol worship/breaking God’s covenant. In a sense, Moses failed as he was unable to get the people to trust God and move into the Promised Land. It was the second generation under Joshua’s leadership that began the conquest. The Hebrew people would ultimately prove to be unfaithful to God.

So what does all this mean for you and me? I hope that you are asking this question every time that you consider Moses and how God reveals Himself! First, following God even when visible miracles happen (Exodus is full of God’s power on display for all to see), doesn’t mean an easy road! Second, even as followers of Christ, we like Moses will face doubts, fears, trouble(s), and our own faithlessness (remember the rock!). Third, the story isn’t really all about us! The story is about God–His mercy, grace, long suffering patience with us, and how that God remains faithful, good, and loving! The testimony of all Scripture reveals that humans are sinful, self-centered, fearful, and often faithless. God obviously works through broken, sinful people to accomplish His great purposes.

Insights on Moses in Relation to Waiting on God

The following quotes are from Larry Crabb’s Freedom from the Incurable Addiction to Self: Waiting for Heaven. Chapter Five: Moses Waited

Larry gives us three things that Moses turned away from in order to follow God in his life:

“Second, we’re told in Hebrews that Moses “refused the fleeting pleasures of sin. . . Moses came to see, as must we, that the joy he was designed to experience was found entirely in God’s plan. And that joy must be God’s doing. Moses waited! As must we if we are to live as true disciples of Jesus.” pages 38-39

“Third, Moses turned his back on material wealth. He turned away from living high on the treasures of Egypt. . .As a prince of Egypt, Moses no doubt enjoyed his wealth. Yet he exchanged riches for poverty. Why? God’s call on his life required it. And Moses was “looking forward to the reward” of finding meaning and joy and friendship with God by telling His story, following God’s script for his life. ”

Key Quote

“The path to happiness, to the joy and hope-filled well-being of a Christian’s soul, leads both through some level of affliction, weariness, and angst, sometimes to nearly unbearable levels, and to the awareness of a deep thirst that will be fully satisfied only in the next life, a thirst that stirs joyful, persevering hope.” Larry Crabb, page 39

Part 1 Conclusion

In order to obey God, we must choose to turn away from position(s), pleasure, and material prosperity as led by Holy Spirit. Our careers, desires for comfort, pleasure, and material gain can become false idols that keep us from true happiness in Christ! If you are truly seeking to follow and honor Christ in your life, expect that God will convict and center you on Him!

Sometimes, I ask myself if it’s worth it to follow God. I address this question:

Is it Worth It All?

Ultimately, your decision will depend on your faith! Every day let’s choose to follow Christ and turn away from all that hinders us! Part 2 of this blog will cover what Moses turned toward! May God graciously remind you of the joys He has in store for you as you faithfully follow, obey, and serve Him!

I, Lee Stanfill, type these words as a pilgrim on a journey of faith hoping for a glorious eternity with the Only Source of True Happiness and Joy!