Alone in a Cave

One of the Openings to the Cave of Adullam

One of the Openings to the Cave of Adullam

Dealing with life at its darkest and most difficult times

If People Magazine had been around in ancient Israel, for months the cover would have featured the face of David, the giant-slayer.  Young women sang about the handsome, national hero.  David was the man women adored and men admired.

God had already chosen David to follow Saul as the next King of Israel. David must have thought this fame and notoriety was all part of the plan.  It all looked so perfect. God was doing something incredible!

But a few spears aimed at David by a jealous King Saul seemed to change everything! Saul’s jealous rage caused him to become obsessed with destroying David.  We learn in 1 Samuel 21 that David even fled to his enemies for help. He turned up in Goliath’s hometown of Gath – the capital of the Philistines.

After asking to see Achish, the Philistine King, David realized this was a bad idea. So, he presented himself to Achish and he pretended to be insane, even drooling in his beard. Achish sent the supposed madman packing.

According to the opening sentence of 1 Samuel 22, “David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam.” Scholars believe David spent three to six months living in the muddy, dark, lonely cave. We pick up the story there with David sitting defeated — his own drool dried up in his beard. What a low point!

Most of us come to a cold, dark cave experience. We find ourselves alone, facing the shattered dreams, inexplicable pain, and desperate grief that life sometimes deals. Cold, dark, difficult caves, indeed!

David’s experience in the cave teaches us about handling life at its darkest and most difficult times. David wrote several Psalms during his months alone in the cave. Let’s look at three keys to handling a cold, dark cave experience. 

#1: Tell God How You Feel (Psalm 142)

Read Psalm 142 and you will sense the overwhelming emotions David experienced after he arrived in the Cave of Adullam. While there are hints of determination and even worship of God, the predominant mood is one of deep discouragement.

Early in his time in the cave, he learns the importance of simply telling God how he feels.  Notice his dejected phrases:

  • “Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need” (v. 6)
  • “No one is concerned for me” (v. 4)
  • “No one cares for my soul” (v. 4)
  • “Set me free from prison.” (v. 7)

Ever been there? Have you ever been so low that you felt like no one cared and despair wrapped its tentacles around you?

Some think it is wrong to tell God how badly life stinks. They think that being grateful means you never express your pain and emotions to God.  But, for David, telling God how bad he felt, with a raw honesty, was key to the process of experiencing God in a cold, lonely cave.  Whatever you are going through today, no matter how dark and difficult, tell God how you feel. 

#2: Praise God for Who He is (Psalm 57)

As you read through the second Psalm David wrote while in the cave of Adullam, you sense a subtle shift in tone.  Many people discover the value of telling God how they feel when they are stuck in a cave experience.  But too few turn the corner to praise God even in the cave.

David declares, “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth” (57:5). Boldly he commits to God, “I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples” (57:9).

Proactive praise does something transformative in us. When we choose to praise God based on Who He is, instead of what our circumstances are, good things happen.  We see the eternal God in Whom we have put our trust.

True worship is not based on what our circumstances are but on Who our God is! Our circumstances will change, but our God never changes. 

#3: Serve God by Helping others (Psalm 34)

God does a work in David’s heart at one of the lowest points in David’s entire life. God listens as David tells God how he feels. He refocuses David’s heart as David chooses to praise his God for Who He is. Back in 1 Samuel 22 we learn that some of David’s friends and relatives choose to join David in the cave. Samuel tells us that “all those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him there” (1 Samuel 22:2). Few of us want people with problems showing up while we are still dealing with our own issues. But God knew what David needed next.

The most practical way we serve God is by helping others. David did that.

God expects us to use our dark, difficult experiences to help others. We may not even be fully free from the cave when He brings a bunch of broken people to our doorstep.  So, look around. Maybe God has planted some hurting people near your cave. You don’t have to have it all together for God to use you. 

Maybe you are at one of the lowest points of your life… a dark cave with spit on your face.  Learn from David.

Tell God how you feel, praise God for Who He is, and serve God by helping others. Watch what God does to transform you and use you to impact others!

Resources for Discovering Your Identity in Christ

This weekend we continued our “Set Free” series from the New Testament letter of Galatians. We looked at Galatians chapter 2 and Paul’s confrontation of Peter regarding Peter’s hypocrisy. To live and love like Jesus authentically in today’s image-conscious culture, we too need to remove any masks of hypocrisy!

One of the keys to moving from hypocrisy to authenticity is discovering your identity in Christ. The links below provide you resources in understanding and embracing the identity we have in Him as His followers.

John Piper’s Desiring God Blog – List of resources on indentity in Christ Great articles, interviews, etc on this subject.

Great List of Verses About our Identity in Christ on the Mercy Me Blog Good verses to memorize or to meditate on.

GotQuestions.org answer to “How should we live our lives in light of our identity in Christ?” Simple, but a biblical and compreshensive article.

FREE “Who I Am in Christ” eChart from Rose Publishing You have to sign up for their email list, but this chart is well worth it.

A Minute and a Half Video that Asks “Who am I?”

A Simple One Page Sheet Listing Identity Markers Easy to print and keep handy as you seek to remember who you are in Jesus.

Who Am I?: Identity in Christ by Jerry Bridges A great book providing a comprehensive look at who we are as followers of Jesus.

No More Secrets

At this morning’s men’s breakfast at Calvary, I shared about the dangerous and destructive ramifications of men living with secret or hidden areas of their lives. Men have demonstrated a bad habit of having hidden areas of their lives that they work hard to keep from their spouses and friends. In Joshua 7 we read the story of Achan. He hid stolen items from Jericho under his tent. He violated what God had comannded. His secret life zapped Israel of its power and effectiveness.

With the Ashley Madison Hack, 36 million people who sought out an extramarital affair via the site had their identity and activity exposed. Too many Christian men are losing their testimony for Christ with their family and friends due to the hidden areas they work so hard to keep. We talked about the damaging impact online pornography, sexual affairs, emotional affairs, hidden gambling, and other secret areas have on men, their families, their friends, and their church. To live and love like Jesus with power and impact, there can be no more secrets in our lives!

Here are some of the basic points I made today.

Kinds of secret/hidden areas:

  1. online porn
  2. a sexual affair
  3. an emotional affair
  4. spending or gambling
  5. time away from responsibility
  6. visiting a specific place or event
  7. practicing a hidden habit

 

8 Myths of the Secret lives we live

#1 – No one is being hurt
        -the people you love the most end up getting hurt the most

#2 – It’s just a little thing I keep for me
         -love gives, selfishness grabs

#3 – Trust me – it’s no big deal
         -hiding something from those you love devastates intimacy

#4 – There’s nothing wrong with just being curious
        -we are called to walk in the light not flirt with the dark

#5 – I would never go further
        -when you think you can’t fall you will

#6 – I really need this because my needs aren’t being met
        -you have confused what you want with what you need

#7 – I’m only human
         -if you are a follower of Christ, you have His Spirit in you

#8 – It’s not hurting what others think about me
         -your character is revealed when no one is looking

 

Dealing with the Secrets:

#1 – Don’t give in, run away
        -as fast as you can
-as far as you can

#2 – Don’t give up, reach out
         -to God who will give you strength
-to godly men who will have your back
-to wise counsel who will guide you forward

 

Other Resources:

3 Wise Safeguards in the Wake of Ashley Madison
5 Lessons from the Hacking of Adultery Website Ashley Madison

 

A Little Girl Who is Making a Big Difference – Heavenly Joy Jerkins

Childlike Faith GraphicToday, I taught on the little maid girl found in 2 Kings 5. She had a childlike faith that God could heal her master. She lovingly shared her hope in God with her master. He went to Israel to be healed. God used Elisha to bring about his complete, miraculous healing from leprosy.

We talked about the 8 characteristics of childlike faith (CLICK HERE for the Outline). The very kind of faith Jesus said we all need to be a part of His Kingdom (Matthew 18:1-5). If a little girl’s childlike faith can make a big difference for God, so can you with a little faith of your own!

Calvary’s own Heavenly Joy joined me at the end of my message to chat about the sweet, gracious, innocent, but bold ways she has been shining for Jesus through her singing and dancing. Below are the clips that have been widely shared on social media of Heavenly on America’s Got Talent and the Today Show with Kathie Lee and Hoda.

Heavenly’s mom, Joy Enriquez, joined Heavenly and sang her new song that features Heavenly – “Shine.” You can CLICK HERE and download the song from iTunes!

 

Heavenly Joy on America’s Got Talent

CLICK HERE to see Heavenly Joy on the Today Show with Kathie Lee and Hoda

 

 

Absolutely Speechless – A story of forgiveness

Happy BrothersWhen we express Christ-like forgiveness to someone who has not even asked for it, the results often leave us absolutely speechless.

After my recent message from Genesis 45 on the forgiveness Joseph extends to his brothers, a young man named Jordan shared with me how he and his brother had not spoken in over 9 months. Jordan was agonizing over the broken relationship between the two because they were so close over the course of their lives.

Both married with kids, a break in the brothers’ relationship had occurred when Jordan’s sister-in-law began to demonstrate very bad behaviors as a result of a substance abuse problem. She had gotten out of control and Jordan had to make a decision not to expose his kids to her behaviors. As he communicated the hard decision to keep his kids away from his brother’s wife, a huge rift between the brothers occurred.

Words were exchanged and Jordan was deeply heart. When he approached me after the forgiveness message, there had been 9 months of silence between the brothers. Jordan asked me for some advice regarding his relationship with his brother (even as he told me that he had begun to forgive in his own heart during the sermon). He emphasized what I had emphasized. God calls us to forgive in our hearts those who have wronged us even when “I am sorry” never comes from them.

We prayed together. We prayed that the Lord would soften hearts. Jordan had clearly been very emotional during the end of the service. His sincerity to repair the brokenness was obvious. My heart was heavy for him as I prayed for the whole heart-wrenching situation between the two brothers.

That night Jordan emailed me telling me of the relief he had felt as he had begun the forgiveness simply in his own heart that morning at church. He then shared that 5 hours after we had prayed together his brother had texted him. Yep, after 9 months of cold, heavy-hearted silence, this simple unprompted text came: Hello, we miss you and the kids. Do you want to get together soon?”

Jordan simply concluded his email to me celebrating God’s answer to our prayer by saying: “I am absolutely speechless!”

Not every story of personal forgiveness sees immediate softening of hearts, but forgiveness always trumps bitterness. God works in hearts that are open to His renewing grace. Jordan opened his heart. God began to work way beyond what he every expected.

While I am praying for continued healing and restoration in this family, I too am “absolutely speechless” at God’s amazing grace in the midst of our brokenness! Are you holding on to a hurt, a wrong with which someone has wounded you? Forgiveness and restoration are not the same thing. But, if there is ever going to be restoration between you and the one who has wronged you, it will start with forgiveness!

7 Biblical Grids for Making Daily Decisions

During the June 25th broadcast of All Things New Radio, I told a story of a young man who impacted the lives of other college students whom he had never met. He died suddenly of a brain aneurysm during his college years. His mom told me he had shared with others the “7 Biblical Grids for Making Daily Decisions” he heard me teach at a youth camp years earlier.

Several have asked if I would share these 7 grids. They are screens or filters through which we can sort out daily decisions that may seem “gray” rather than “black and white.” Remember this was a passing reference, so the details and content of my teaching aren’t included. Maybe we will run the series of messages on this topic in the future on the All Things New Radio Broadcast.

Here is the link to the June 25th broadcast that referenced these grids: CLICK HERE

With the main questions below, if you answer yes to any of these, then you should not do something.

7 Biblical Grids for Making Daily Decisions

Grid #1: Does the Bible forbid it?

Grid #2: Do my authorities forbid it?

Grid #3: Will it send a mixed signal?

Grid #4: Will it cause me to stumble (to think or do wrong)?

Grid #5: Will it cause others to stumble (to think or do wrong)?

Grid #6: Will it point away from Christ?

Grid #7: Would I rather not? (Do I want to do this?)

 

All The Poor and Powerless

IMG_0139Today at Calvary we set aside the plan we had in place for our services and focussed on the poor and powerless. In light of the 21 Martyred Coptic Christians and our opportunity to host the Joni and Friends Global Access Conference, the Lord moved me and our team to focus on those suffering – some simply for naming the name of Jesus!

So, while the bulletin and everything leading up to today’s worship services said we would continue our “Change of Heart” series today with “The Jealous Heart” – we will not. We will do that next week.

This week we will stop and reflect on the events of this past week. We will allow God to move our hearts toward compassion and service. We will ask God to use us to minister to the needs of those who are often marginalized in our world.

We discussed the passage about the great banquet in Luke 14:15-23. We prayed for the persecuted church around the world. We concluded by suggesting several things:

    1. Pray for the hurting, suffering, and persecuted.
    2. Explore the websites of Joni and Friends as well as the Voice of Martyrs ministry.
    3. Volunteer to help through a ministry at Calvary.
    4. Serve someone around you in need on your own.

 

 

 

The Bitter Heart

IMG_0128Here is the outline for today’s message. Also, below the outline are a few resources I referenced during the message today.

The Bitter Heart

Ephesians 4:31-32

Part 5 in the series: “Change of Heart”

5 Myths I Believe When I Hold a Grudge:

#1: It hurts the other person more than it hurts me.

#2: It’s just between that person and me.

#3: If I let go of my bitterness, they get away with what they did.

#4: I just can’t forgive them.

#5: God knows my resentment is justified.

Forgiven people forgive people.

Unforgiving People (31)

#1: How they relate to others: cranky & mean

#2: How they relate to themselves: sour & irritable

#3: How they relate to God: ungrateful & stubborn

Forgiving People (32)

#1: How they relate to others:

                -They show an intentional niceness that doesn’t make sense

#2: How they relate to themselves:

                -They have an unusual sweetness that can’t be explained

#3: How they relate to God:

                -They enjoy an unbelievable forgiveness that isn’t deserved

How to process the forgiveness of God:

#1: Celebrate it for all that it is

#2: Embrace it for everything you have ever done

#3: Extend it to those who have hurt you the most

Clip from Forrest Gump: “Sometimes there just aren’t enough rocks”

“Dropping Your Rocks” by Nicole Johnson

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“Blessings” by Laura Story

blessingsThis is the song I read at the end of my message today. In this post, you will find a video with the lyrics of the song, a video with the story behind the song, and at the bottom of the post you will find the lyrics themselves. What a great story that God used to give us this great song!

 

 

 

 

 

“Blessings” – by Laura Story (with Lyrics)

 

“Blessings” – The story behind the song

 

The Lyrics to “Blessings”

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering

All the while You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near?

What if trials of this life
Are Your mercies in disguise?

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough

And all the while You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near?

And what if trials of this life
Are Your mercies in disguise?

When friends betray us, when darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home
It’s not our home

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near?

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst
This world can’t satisfy?

And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise?
Read more at http://www.songlyrics.com/laura-story/blessings-lyrics/#AgSzUCCw2crGiAEa.99

The Suffering Heart – Sermon Outline & Resources

005aHere is the basic outline for today’s message at Calvary. Below the outline are some resources to help you in your journey of suffering.

 

 

The Suffering Heart

The Book of Job

Part 4 in the series: “Change of Heart”

Pastor Shawn Thornton – January 25, 2015

 

Suffering should prompt us to trust God more – not less.

5 Sources of Suffering:

#1: The reality of living in a broken world (Romans 8:20-22)

#2: The foolish or sinful choices of others (Joshua 7:5-11)

#3: Our own foolish or sinful choices (Isaiah 64:6)

#4: Satanic attack (1 Peter 5:8)

#5: The plan of God (Romans 9:20-23)

When you suffer:

#1: Make worship your first response (Job 1:20-22)

#2: Tell God how you feel (Job 13:23-24)

#3: Surround yourself with the right people (Job 2:11-13)

       When others suffer:

#1: Be there for them (even in silence)

#2: Avoid simplistic theological answers

#3: Point to the supremacy and sovereignty of God

#4: Do not attempt to answer “Why?” definitively

#5: Help them see their suffering as “Father-filtered”

#6: Encourage them to trust God more

#4: View your suffering in light of all eternity (Job 19:25-27)

#5: Remember that ultimately God knows “why?” (Job 42:1-3)

#6: Look for areas in your life God wants to grow you (Job 42:4-6)

#7: Submit to the supremacy and sovereignty of God (Job 40:1-5)

When you suffer, do you trust God more?

 

 

Resources on Suffering:

Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller (Book)

Why Suffering?: Finding Meaning and Comfort When Life Doesn’t Make Sense by Ravi Zacharias & Vince Vitale (Book)

Video with Song Lyrics for Laura Story’s “Blessings” (Youtube)

Ten Reasons to Believe in a God Who Allows Suffering (online PDF Booklet)