Sunday through Wednesday of this past week I took a trip to the desert alone for the purpose of prayer, seeking God, and rest. I stayed an hour and a half north of our office, in a small community named Carefree.
Wirey ocotillos, saguaro cactus, ragweeds, and teddy bear chollas dotted the landscape. It wasn’t long before I started to settle into the peace that comes from resting with God in pure silence while releasing all of the stress, trauma, and cares of this world.
Monday morning, as I was reading the Bible, 1 John 1:7 stood out:
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”
1 John 1:7
Later that day as I was reading through a book on prayer, the author quoted 1 John 1:7. Then on Tuesday I hit a writing by Oswald Chambers where he quoted 1 John 1:7. When I run into the same verse multiple times within 24 hours, I know God is putting His finger on it.
There was a second part to His message. 1 John 4:16-19 also stood out:
“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.”
Moments later I discovered a piece of paper I had in my Bible where I recorded a question I wrote to the Lord around 2010 when I was going through a tough time. The question was, “What do You want me to see?” His answer, which I had written below the question, was: “For you to know that I love you.” Then that same day I received an email where the love of God was the subject line. More confirmation.
As I prayed through what I was hearing and leaned further into Scripture, I believe He is speaking to all of us about how to walk during the traumatic days we live in, which Matthew 24 describes:
“As he (Jesus) sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (emphasis mine).
“The love of many will grow cold” is a warning for us to be careful with our heart. Many are falling away, hatred is everywhere, and lawlessness abounds. Wars are raging in the Ukraine and Israel, with the possibility of more in the wings. If we allow this trauma to cauterize our heart and buy in to hopelessness or despair, there’s a danger our heart could turn to stone. That’s a cliff we want to stay away from. In Matthew 24, Jesus told us to “not be alarmed,” that is, not to allow fear or anxiety to take hold. Anxiety is an epidemic, with nearly 40 million Americans suffering from it. Many are turning to false comforts to cope, including porn, food, pleasure, entertainment, and shopping. None of those things work.
In Matthew 24 Jesus didn’t give us a way out of these difficult times, such as the rapture, rather, we are told that those who endure to the end will be saved. I see a lot of people talking about the rapture and Christ’s second coming, but rarely have I read where people need to be equipped to “endure to the end.” For the record, I’ve filed the rapture of the church under “I don’t know when it will happen” and will let the theologians debate as to whose guess might be right. Until the rapture happens, we do well to heed Jesus’ warning to be prepared to persevere through these dark times and take care of our heart.
“Walking in the light” is about living close to God every day. In part, the light in 1 John 1 represents the holiness that emanates from His presence; keeping short accounts with sin and bringing our sins to the light of our relationships with God and others is critical. So are being absorbed in the truths and comfort found in God’s word so that no lie can penetrate our spirit and fear is kept away. Obedience, doing what He tells us to do, and above all, prayer must be top priorities.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
Jesus must be the source of our life, the fountain of living water that we drink from and binge on frequently.
“How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light do we see light.
Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you,
and your righteousness to the upright of heart!”
My 3-day binge on prayer with God in the desert was a feast for my soul. He was there, speaking, leading, giving rest, encouraging, teaching. Friends, this is the way through. We can’t expect to dabble in prayer or our relationship with God and expect to have enough in the tank to endure the trauma we’re living under. While others binge on TV shows, even Christian programs, those who wish to endure to the end will find their strength in walking in the light with God, consistent time in prayer, and basking in His love every day.
To walk in the light and abide in His love, we must stop and rest.
When Jesus went away to desolate places often (Luke 5:16), He was showing us a critical part of the Christian life. It is even more so now in these perilous days when hatred is everywhere. I saw a woman get torn up on social media who posted about praying for Israel this week. Some Christians are weaponizing Scripture and using it to beat others with it.
Be careful with your heart. Don’t allow it to harden. Screens do not satisfy and cannot provide the life-nourishing love your heart needs. Turn them off as much as possible. Be careful with how much news you ingest. If you’re in bondage to any kind of sin, or especially, bitterness, get help now. The best pleasures and entertainment of this world can provide is a momentary distraction. Don’t allow fear or anxiety to creep in. Ask for prayer or help from others if you’re struggling. Do… not… isolate yourself! You must be a part of a tribe of other believers.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.”
1 John 4:18-19
The love of God is the antidote to fear and anxiety. Just studying God’s love or quoting scripture about it isn’t enough. There are many doctrine-heads out there who are hard and empty inside. If the truth hasn’t broken through to your heart. cry out to God for a breakthrough.
It takes hard work and consistent effort to walk in the light. Facing our sin and battling the flesh on an ongoing basis isn’t easy and requires humility. We must invest considerable time on our knees. Spiritual warfare is ongoing. Obedience can be challenging. We’ve all had moments when God asked us to do something and we’ve balked or done a 180 as Jonah did.
This is the way to endurance, strength, a soft and tender heart, and having enough left over to make your life count for eternity in spite of the crazy going on around us.
If you want help or prayer, please reply to this email. We have support and prayer groups going on during the week that don’t cost anything. Let us know if you’d like to get plugged in.