Cheri's Blog

The Other Side of the Dungeon

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Day 6: The Other Side of the Dungeon

Scripture

Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, 2and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. 3But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. 2 Thessalonians 3:1-3

Devotional Material

Spurgeon says of himself for days after the incident at the Surrey Garden Music Hall:

“Even the sight of a Bible brought a flood of tears and utter distraction of mind.”

Crushed spiritually and mentally to the degree he physically cannot function is where we find our renowned preacher. Not only was Spurgeon questioning his ability to preach again, but picking up a Bible brought an emotional torrent. Would he ever recover? He doesn’t yet know.

But he found help in the Lord.

He returned to his mourning congregation, hurting. Likely, he was filled with all sorts of competing thoughts, anxieties, and emotions. As this grieving leader took his place, he began to pray this gut-wrenching prayer:

“We are assembled here, O Lord, this day, with mingled feelings of joy and sorrow…Thy servant feared that he should never be able to meet this congregation again.”

He was serious. It took superhuman strength to get up that morning, stand there, and pray. Spurgeon did what you and I need to do when he found himself in a dungeon experience. He refused to quit but exhibited perfect trust under delay and disappointment, just like Jesus called John the Baptist to do.

We know this evidenced through his life and ministry. He refused to quit and trusted God. Later he said this:

“I have gone to the very bottoms of the mountains, as some of you know, in a night that never can be erased from my memory…but, as far as my witness goes, I can say that the Lord is able to save unto the uttermost and in the last extremity, and he has been a good God to me.”

That is the essence of Jesus and the promise for your life today. Your God will be faithful to do the same for you. I don’t know how He will choose to do it. But please remember that if John the Baptist can find himself in a season of discouragement; and if Charles Spurgeon can go “to the uttermost and in the last extremity” and still find God to be good– we can trust this same God.

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?

My help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth.

Lift up your eyes, my friend!

Don’t you dare quit!

Your help is coming.

 

For His Glory and with much affection,

 

 

Conquering Your Dungeon

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Day 5: Conquering Your Dungeon

The first days are so painful sometimes but I know days five and six are coming. God does not leave us alone to climb out of our dungeons. He helps us in conquering them. Today’s message not difficult to write because I am so familiar with it. For me, the encouragement and strength as essential–the very purposes we are gathered. I pray God’s Word does not return void, penetrating your own heart and mind.

Scripture

John 16:33

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Romans 8:37

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

 

Devotional Material

Charles Spurgeon was a renowned pastor in London during the 1800s. He was not popular because he was soft on truth, nor did he pander to the critical base. It was his giftedness in preaching the Word. Spurgeon was able to present a truth, draw you in where you felt it is written for your particular need, and sense Divine inspiration.

This man, like our John the Baptist, was full of conviction, confident in his calling, with the ability to deliver faithfully. Spurgeon developed such powerful sermons that even translated in other languages across continents, just reading them could be used by God to bring people to salvation.

At age twenty-two, Spurgeon was newly married with two babies and already had what we would call a tremendous following. So much so that he and his congregation decided to rent the Surrey Garden Music Hall to accommodate the crowds they were anticipating. This music hall was built with a bottom floor and balconies where people sat facing the stage. Quarters would be close in order to hear the speaker without sound equipment. For an evening message, 12,000 people would attend. Another 10,000 would stand outside leaning in straining to hear something.

Such ministry success, however, brings out the worst in some people. A few minutes after six p.m. someone yelled “Fire! The balconies are giving way!” With that announcement came mass hysteria. People were still coming into the theater which blocked the exits. A balcony, indeed, gave way from the weight, but there was no fire. It had been a lie–intentionally told to create the hysteria and mass commotion. What resulted were seven deaths: people trampled by those trying to escape; and twenty-nine seriously injured. Spurgeon was helpless, and had to be carried out on the verge of consciousness. He didn’t believe he would ever recover from the event.

Yes. In this world, you and I will have trouble.

But we know this tragedy does not mark the end of an era for Spurgeon for the same reason your difficult situations, tragedies, or deep discouragements will not mark the end for you. His story is not over and neither is yours!

Even before we know how the story ends we can make progress in our own realities.

  • Refuse the defeating thoughts battling within your mind.
  • Instead, embrace the truth of God’s Word that He will help you through this difficulty.

With much affection,

 

 

Dungeon Experiences

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Day 4: Dungeon Experiences

Scripture

Matthew 11:4-6

And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see:

the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.

Isaiah 61:1

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

Matthew 11:4-6

And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see:

the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.

And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

 

John is, indeed, having a dungeon experience.

“ARE YOU THE ONE or am I completely off base?”

“I mean, I thought you were, I think you might be, but… It’s so dark and lonely down here. This is radically different from what I imagined. I’m just not sure anymore.”

Can you relate? John needs A STRAIGHT UP ANSWER.

“Are You the One?”

Jesus offers John’s messengers an answer in Matthew 11:4-5. They are to report what they see and hear from Jesus. He doesn’t answer like John wanted, does he? Ever been there before?

“Should I keep going? Maybe I should put it on the shelf? Do I confront? Is it time to quit? Should I stop thinking about this possibility altogether? Lord, I need to know!

John’s answer does not arrive in a tidy “yes” or “no” format, but it is conclusive. Jesus calls John to consider how he recognized the Messiah in the first place. What did the Word of God say the Messiah would do? How would the people know when they found Him (Isaiah 61:1)?

John was having difficulty seeing truth in the midst of discouragement. Sound familiar? What you thought was going to happen is not jiving with your reality? You begin to question your ability to discern God’s voice in your life? Did you just make the whole thing up?

Jesus then does something precious. He adds this onerous line (Matthew 11:6):

“And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

What does He mean by this? One commentator suggested the language means something far from being offended by Jesus but that the “one” in question exhibits “perfect trust under delay and disappointment.”

It’s as if Jesus is saying, “John, blessed is the one who is not offended by me but considers what I am doing compared to what the Scriptures declare the Messiah WILL DO and keeps the faith! Trust that you can hear your God under delay and utter disappointment even in a dungeon because you will be blessed if you do!”

Sometimes God meets us in our need just like John. In the middle of our discouragement or disappointment of how we thought our life should measure up, God lifts our eyes to a greater calling. Positively Jesus met John in his dungeon experience and restored him to believe again.

Lord, do it for us, too!

When you are having a dungeon experience, allow Him to meet you right there. God can restore your hope and lift your eyes to believe again, too.

I pray that even if you and I have to experience delay and utter disappointment we will do exactly what John did. May God clearly meet you in your need today.

With much affection,

 

 

Experiencing the Dungeon

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I don’t know if you have ever found yourself in a place you never thought you would end up, and it just doesn’t make any sense–but this is where we meet John the Baptist today.

Day 3: Experiencing the Dungeon

Scripture

Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples
and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Matthew 11:2-3

Devotional Material

We find John in the dungeon (Matthew 11) sending his disciples to Jesus. He wanted to know if Jesus was the Messiah.

Is he serious? This IS John the Baptist, isn’t it? Here is the PILLAR of a man who, a few chapters ago, was declaring that Jesus was The Guy. His whole life pointed toward it. John KNEW he was right and found great joy in proclaiming this truth.

What in the world is going on?

The same thing that goes on with you and me.

You and I can have our own dungeon experiences.

John is discouraged.

Remember his calling?

He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, Malachi 4:4-5

John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet: “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’ John 1:23

His faithfulness had landed him in prison where he can’t draw crowds to “prepare the way” or “turn Israel from their sin.” No one can “make straight the path” when they are sitting in the dark. This is NOT what he imagined for his life. And he is alone.

It’s when you and I are alone that Satan takes great opportunity. Your mind begins to entertain thoughts that on a good hair day, when your skinny jeans fit just right, you’d NEVER allow. For John, that’s when people were repenting. Hearts were changing. Ministry was flourishing. Those kinds of negative thoughts are quickly passed over.

But not in the dark. Not in the flea-infested, filth-infused dungeons we sometimes find ourselves within. You don’t dismiss those thoughts when all hope is nearly gone. You can’t extinguish them when what you thought were God’s instructions for your life seem more like something you constructed mentally. Maybe you never heard Him at all. Then everything you thought you believed with your whole life becomes cloudy.

This is where we find our POWERHOUSE John the Baptist. He wants a STRAIGHT UP answer from Jesus.

“ARE YOU THE ONE?”

There are times when we find ourselves in such a state of discouragement we question the very person of Christ and His presence or direction in our lives. If John can find himself here, you and I can maneuver our way into the wilderness of doubt in half the time.

Let’s learn from John two things:

  1. Go straight to Jesus in your doubt and discouragement. This is the key for all suffering.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask Jesus the hard question and wait for the response. John needed answers, direction, and his hope restored, just like you. Jesus will keep you from falling.

Let’s do the work with Jesus today. I am praying that we will.

With much affection,

 

 

Follow John’s Lead

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Welcome back. One thing about today’s devotional is that it stems from several places in Scripture. (There are several verses. I’m sorry!) I have provided them here for you so it shouldn’t be difficult. I certainly don’t want to leave them out. It is so important that we know where these verses live and today’s lesson is no different. 

I’m glad you are here. I pray you benefit from this plan as greatly as I have.

Day 2: Follow John’s Lead

Scripture

Luke 1:15

for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.

Malachi 4:4-5

“Remember the law of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel. 5″Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. 6″He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.”…

Isaiah 40:2-3

2″Speak kindly to Jerusalem; And call out to her, that her warfare has ended, That her iniquity has been removed, That she has received of the LORD’S hand Double for all her sins.”

3 A voice is calling, “Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. 4″Let every valley be lifted up, And every mountain and hill be made low; And let the rough ground become a plain, And the rugged terrain a broad valley;…  

Matthew 3:5-6

Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

John 1:22-23

So they said to him (the Pharisees), “Who are you? We need an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

23John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet: “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’ 

John 1:29

“Behold, The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” 

John 1:31

the reason I came baptizing with water was that He might be revealed to Israel.”…

 

Devotional Material

We have time for one Biblical example in this plan on discouragement. Know there are others who needed God to restore their hope and their joy–their very life. God has been there time and time again to do the work and show Himself faithful.

In these moments we are going to take a look at John the Baptist, the cousin of the Son of God. Possessing the Holy Spirit from the womb, this guy was SOLID!

The Old Testament prophesied that before the Messiah came Elijah would return, and God would send someone to prepare the way. When John the Baptist arrives on the scene with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, he goes out into the wilderness looking very much like Elijah, sporting a leather belt and eating locusts as Scripture promised.

Fast forward through John’s ministry. John recognized Jesus as the Son of God and calls it out on the banks of the Jordan. Then before the crowds, John declared that the reason he came baptizing with water was to reveal this very man.

Once Jesus is out in public ministry, the crowds began to leave John and head over to the Jesus wagon. Naturally, John’s groupies are upset by this disruption, disturbing their awesome follower numbers. But John gets it! He understood His purpose. It wasn’t to have the most likes, high baptism numbers, or the greatest ministry success. Instead, it was to be overshadowed by this guy. Harold the new guy and get out of the way! That was his mission. But don’t stop ministering, John, in spite of the lessening crowds, the dropping numbers, and the discouragement it naturally arouses. Don’t stop speaking the truth regardless of the cost.

John lands in a dark, miserable prison for his faithfulness. Prison was not on the agenda. Preaching? Yes. Heralding the new guy? Absolutely. Preparing the Way was his calling, not wasting away in a dungeon.

Life wasn’t turning out as he planned. It begins to have an effect on him. Here he was doing everything God had asked of Him. He frankly couldn’t do anymore. For that, he’s in a dungeon. John begins to question very foundational premises that once rooted His life and mission.

What about you?

Have you ever found yourself in a different place in life than you planned? It’s not working out like you’d hoped or envisioned? Maybe you too, have experienced two handfuls of hardship for your faithfulness, and it’s causing you to question your own foundational premises.

Keep reading. Follow John’s lead. He takes his questions to Jesus. What you and I are going to see is that this makes all the difference.

Today, you and I can do the same.

Can’t wait to meet you tomorrow.

With much affection,