“OUR WORLD HAS GONE CRAZY, BUT MAYBE THAT’S A GOOD THING?” #ChurchOfTheUndead
(Originally Aired July 22, 2020)
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IN THIS EPISODE: It feels like our world is imploding doesn’t it? Race riots, an incredibly difficult economy with more job losses than we’ve seen since the Great Depression, and… oh yeah… let’s not forget murder hornets. But what if all this chaos has the capacity for good? What if, contrary to what our fretful brains tell us, God is still in control and is, even now, using everything I just listed, and everything else that seems to be going wrong in our world, for our good and to further His kingdom? Yes, our world has gone crazy – but maybe that’s good for God’s people.
MENTIONS, SOURCES, AND LINKS…
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Original Article: https://tinyurl.com/y6rump2w
Darren Marlar is a licensed minister through the Universal Life Church: https://www.themonastery.org. Find his other podcast, Weird Darkness, in your favorite podcast app at https://weirddarkness.com/listen. “Church Of The Undead” theme music by Epidemic Sound.
“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” — John 12:46
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It feels like our world is imploding doesn’t it? Race riots, an incredibly difficult economy with more job losses than we’ve seen since the Great Depression, and… oh yeah… let’s not forget murder hornets. But what if all this chaos has the capacity for good? What if, contrary to what our fretful brains tell us, God is still in control and is, even now, using everything I just listed, and everything else that seems to be going wrong in our world, for our good and to further His kingdom? Yes, our world has gone crazy – but maybe that’s good for God’s people.
Hello, Weirdos – I’m Pastor Darren – welcome to the Church of the Undead.
Here in the Church of the Undead I can share ideas which are relevant to those who suffer with depression, need some encouragement, and for those who love (or are just curious about) the God of the Bible. And it doesn’t matter if you are a Weirdo-in-Christ or just a Weirdo – everyone is welcome here at the Church of the Undead. And I use the word “undead” because here we are DEAD to sin and ALIVE in Christ! If you want to join this Weirdo congregation, just click that subscribe or follow button – and visit us online at WeirdDarkness.com/CHURCH.
Full disclosure – I might use the term “pastor” because I’ve branded this feature as a church – but I do not have a theology degree, nor did I ever go to Bible college. I’m just a guy who gave his life to Christ in 1989 and has tried to “walk the walk” every since – and has stumbled a lot along the way – because, like everybody else, I am an imperfect, heavily-flawed human being. So please don’t take what I say as gospel; dig into God’s word yourself for confirmation, inspiration, and revelation.
That being said, welcome to the Church of the Undead.
The night before His death, and shortly before believers experienced unprecedented persecution, Jesus told Peter that He would build His church and the gates of hell would not overcome it. Throughout Scripture, we see God using the worst of circumstances to reveal His glory and further His kingdom, and He’ll do the same today, even in this upside down world How?
Worldly challenges center our thoughts on eternity. Difficulties have a way of slicing through spiritual apathy, busyness, and petty concerns, refocusing our attention on those things that are constant and unwavering. In Romans chapter 8, Paul, a man who wrote a substantial part of the New Testament, encouraged the persecuted believers by reminding them of eternity. In verse 18, he said, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
When life hits us hard, we can focus on the joy that awaits us in eternity. It feels awful right now – but this is a tiny speck of time as compared to eternity.
Uncertainty tends to deepen our prayer lives too. I don’t know about you, but when life is going well, I often rely on what you might call “shout out” prayers. “Hey, thanks for the food, Jesus!” “Hey, God – thanks for everything, Amen!” These quick, relatively shallow snippets of communication aren’t necessarily bad, but they don’t really draw me deep into the heart of God either. Nowadays though, my prayers are a lot longer, more in-depth with my acknowledging God more often and for more time when I do pray – praying for those I know and love, thanking God for my salvation and wonderfully strong marriage, keeping a roof over my head and my health intact, etc. My prayers have lengthened and become more sincere and thoughtful.
This is true for many of us. King David from Ancient Israel provides a great example of this truth. In the Psalms he wrote numerous heartfelt prayers asking God to be with him, to protect and avenge him, and to remember him according to God’s love and righteousness. We see his desperation for God in Psalm 27:7: “Hear my voice when I call, O Lord; be merciful to me and answer me.”
Next… world chaos tends to unite believers. In our opinionated, entitled culture, it’s easy to allow personal preferences and minor differences to divide us. Just spend twelve seconds on Twitter and you’ll see arguments over the most inconsequential things. Friendships have been destroyed over bitter, frivolous arguments on the best way to raise a family, political parties or candidates. Differing opinions have fractured ministries, and worship preferences (are drums of the devil?) have severed churches. But when we’re going through difficulties like we are now, or if we see another brother or sister in Christ struggling, our love for each other bands us together. Just think of how we all came together and put aside our squabbles for a few months after 9/11. We realized loving one another was more important than any of those secondary issues we used to argue about with family or fellow church members. We saw someone hurting and we were there for them to help get them through a trying time. I’m seeing the same thing now in the church I attend – a few weeks ago, despite the quarantine, dozens of church members got together and packed up 100,000 meals to be shipped to those who needed them. People put aside their own fears of catching the coronavirus, and they put on masks to work together for something greater than themselves.
In fact, trials force us to rely on God instead of ourselves. I can live much of my life on autopilot—get up, work, eat lunch, work some more, go to bed, repeat. Even some of my more stressful experiences are relatively manageable. In fact, often (and I’m not proud of it), when difficulties arise, my self-reliance increases, pushing me further from God. But when my world shifts past my ability to maintain even a semblance of control, I have no other choice but to rely on God. While he should be the first resort all the time, if we’re being honest, God is typically our last resort. When nothing else works, that’s when we look up and say “God, help me!” It’s when I’ve reached the very end of myself that I discover God’s strength within. That’s when I discover God’s grace is sufficient and His power is perfected in my weakness, to paraphrase 2 Cor. 12:9.
The uncertainty of the chaos around us actually solidifies God’s truth as well. Tragedies, wars, and natural disasters can expose areas of deception and doubt. Sickness and death challenges ideas that God will protect us from all harm and that all will go well once we come to Christ. Civil unrest forces us to wrestle with our beliefs regarding the intersection of God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. And often, situations we don’t understand shine light on areas of doubt in need of a deeper understanding of truth.
God showed me this a few years ago after facing a particularly painful situation. Initially, I was frustrated – yay – angry with Him, because I knew this was an area He had full power to act but chose not to. It was even in a ministry area. It took a while, but I eventually realized I either believed God’s wisdom was perfect or I didn’t, and if His wisdom was perfect and He did everything in love (which He does), then this outcome I had experienced was good as well – even if it didn’t feel like it at the time.
Worldwide chaos and tragedies inspire outreach. I am easily distracted and consumed with events going on in my own little world. As a result, I can spend all of my time focused on whatever is occurring right in front of me and lose sight of my ultimate mission of telling others about Christ. When confronted with human tragedy, however, God’s Spirit within me rises up more easily, I’m more bold (heck – it’s during these uncertain and scary times that I created the Church of the Undead!). Times like these remind me of where true hope lies—in Him. Recognizing how fragile and painful our world can motivates us to point others to that which is certain and unchanging… God.
When chaos reigns, let it remind you of our need for Christ and use that feeling as a sense of urgency to share His truth.
External difficulties result in internal growth. It’s kind of the spiritual version of “no pain, no gain”…. or “whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.” Scripture makes this clear—God uses trials and temptations to grow His children into better human beings. In James chapter one, speaking to persecuted Christians scattered throughout Ancient Palestine, Jesus’ brother says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (James 1:2, NIV). In Romans chapter 5, Paul tells us perseverance produces character and character, hope. These truths can help us view suffering differently, which in turn can encourage us to draw closer to God as He carries us through difficulties.
External chaos helps us prioritize our time. If we belong to Christ, we’ve got the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, right? And one of His roles is to align believers with God’s will. This process occurs progressively over time as He shifts our thinking, desires, and priorities to more closely align with His. This process often accelerates during trials and tragedies.
In Matthew 25:31-40 Jesus reveals how His heart is drawn to the impoverished and hurting, stating that the benevolence we show others reveals our love for Him. If we sense God calling us to help someone but don’t have time to do so, we’ve probably taken on something God hasn’t assigned to us – we’re too busy doing things God doesn’t want us doing.
Tragedy, wars, and disasters have the capacity to deepen our compassion. Whenever I focus on myself and my problems, my selfishness grows and my view narrows. That’s probably the case with most people. But when there’s a mass shooting or lives devastated by hurricanes, my apathy and self-obsession are immediately challenged. When we encounter the pain of others, we have two options—shut down and avert our attention, fueling apathy; or pause to pray, asking God to stir our compassion for those affected. Take for example the fundraiser we did for Food For The Poor in late May and early June. The worldwide coronavirus pandemic brought us all together emotionally, we knew the need was great and very real – and despite our own difficult financial circumstances we still raised three times the amount we were hoping for, meaning we saved that many more lives from starvation. We could’ve ignored the need and focused on our own financial difficulties and trials due to the pandemic, but we chose the other path instead. How many of those people we helped would’ve have starved to death had covid-19 not taken us out of our comfortable existence?
And finally trials and tragedies reveal the power of the Gospel. Imagine watching a man endure unspeakable torture for his faith in Christ. Imagine a woman showing love to her persecutor, or the falsely imprisoned singing praise songs in the midst of oppression.
The gospel message is one of power and a love so inexplicable, it can only come from God’s Spirit within. When we have every reason to cave but remain standing instead, when we long to curse but we choose to love, and when we give sacrificially despite personal hardships, we reveal Christ in us and invite others to taste His love and power as well.
That’s where you and I are right now in this crazy world we’re living in. We have the opportunity to live our lives in such a way that people will take notice and wonder how we are getting through it with our hearts still full, our faith still intact. It’s a bit cliché, but I like the saying, “You might be the only bible someone will read.”
No matter how crazy our world becomes, we can always trust that God is good, faithful, loving, and sovereign and working all things out for our good and His glory. Even if we don’t understand it in the moment.
So, yes, our world has gone crazy – but God can do great things with it.
If you like what you heard, share this episode with others whom you think might also like it. Maybe the person you share it with will want to join this Weirdo congregation too! To join this Weirdo family yourself, find us on Facebook, listen to previous messages, even find out how to join me in my daily bible studies, visit WeirdDarkness.com/CHURCH. That’s WeirdDarkness.com/CHURCH. You can find the sources I used for this week’s message in the show notes. I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me, Weirdos. Until next time, Jesus loves you and so do I. God bless.