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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Levi Lusko » Levi Lusko - Out of Sight, On His Mind

Levi Lusko - Out of Sight, On His Mind

Levi Lusko - Out of Sight, On His Mind
TOPICS: Northern Lights

You're not buried. You're planted. You're being trusted. You're being developed. "You shall", Psalm 31:20, "hide them in the secret place of your presence from the plots of man. You shall keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues". God develops his best work in unseen places. Today, we come to what is the conclusion of a series of messages that we've called the Northern Lights. The northern lights, the aurora borealis. Isaiah chapter 45 is where we're directing our attention. And this is our third week just in one verse of scripture, which has been so awesome to just let one scripture just really marinate in our hearts and to let it kind of brine us with its goodness, season us with its flavor.

Isaiah 45:3, I've only seen the aurora borealis in my life twice, two times that I've seen it with the naked eye. I hope to see it more times before I go to heaven. I'm sure the aurora is there. It will be even more powerful. I would be even open to seeing the aurora australis from the southern hemisphere. I'd be fine with that too. Because the two times I've seen it left me speechless. And if you've been in our church for a minute, that's not my frequent state, speechless. But I was. My mouth was stopped. The Bible talks about your mouth being stopped. I was shut up when I saw the auroras for the first time. It was early in the morning or late at night, however you want to come around that. I'd flown in late. The plane was late. I was frustrated and tired.

I was already thinking about the next morning because 12:30 arrival is now 1 o'clock. You're home at 1:20 or 1:30, and then the day doesn't stop showing up, the next one, all of its appointments and all of its urgencies and all of its whatever the load was. But it didn't matter because I could have stood out there in the street outside my house dancing for hours. I was so overcome by this. And if you've seen it, you know what I'm talking about. It's just business as usual interrupted when the auroras are popping. Here's how it happened. My friend Colton had picked me and Olivia up from the airport to take us home. And we were all driving from the airport to my house when I, literally, I remember having to go like this. I was like, are my contacts fogging up or something?

And I remember thinking to myself, I must be more tired than I realize. And I remember turning to Colton and Olivia, like what is this? Am I the only one seeing all of this happen? It was Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, man. Right? Did someone slip me something on that airplane? Because the sky- here's how I describe it. Now, I did not get to see a green one. I hope to see a green one. I've never seen a green one. I did not get to see a blue and red one. Apparently, it's nitrogen reactions with electrons that creates the red and blue ones. It's oxygen reacting with the electrons in our upper earth atmosphere that creates the green ones.

What I got to see, because we're far south of the north, even though we're pretty far up, latitude 48, but we're still far south of the north, I got to see a shimmering grayscale one, which was good enough for me, right? I'm glad. Maybe that's the gateway drug. You know what I mean? It gets to be better and better and better. And I'm going to chase the aurora high, which is, all things considered, a pretty good high to chase, I guess. And there are aurora chasers. And there are aurora tours. And I've extensively listened to the podcasts from those who have been on those excursions. And I know people who have flown to Norway when they're going off, when the solar storms take place because they want to see them. I won't mention any names, Louie Giglio. But I do know that, for me, the grayscale version was electrifying. Because here's how I describe it. It was like someone had hung a giant sheet in the sky.

And then a giant off-camera was just flapping the sheet. And then they would stop for a second because they got to catch their breath. Because it's like the ropes in the gym. You use all your energy. You got to huff and puff for a second before you're ready to blow another house down. And then the giant would just start up again. And it was like he was getting ready to put a sheet on a bed and just flapping it, flapping it, flapping it. And then it would just stop. And the entire sky and the stars and everything was just rippling and rolling. And it literally just took your breath away. It felt like this euphoric, giddy high, once I realized I was not imagining things. We got out of the car. We were just standing in the street. Of course, I ran into the house to wake my family up.

And then I just stood there. And every once in a while, I'd have this passing thought, like how mad would my neighbors be if I just ran through the neighborhood throwing pebbles at windows? Because in my mind, all I could think of, it was just a travesty that no one else was seeing this. You can sleep later. You can sleep when you're dead. The auroras are in the sky, people. I feel like the Samaritan woman in John 4, who, after Jesus told her everything she had done but then told her he loved her still, and she found in Him what she could not find in every man she had ever slept with and married and looked to for identity and for validation. But then she found it in the Son of Man. How she left her picture there, and she just ran off to tell the villagers, come see a man who has told me everything I've ever done, who really told me who I actually am and who I can actually become.

And so the reason she came in the heat of the day with her vessels, that was the last thing in her mind because the auroras were in the sky above her. God's love had erupted over her life. And that is what it is to know Him. That is what it is to walk with him. We're not talking about religion. We're not talking about some experience reading a Biblical account. We're talking about the heavens opening up over your life. God is real, and He loves you. And He has a name. And He knows yours. My wife got to see them better than I did. And she actually had the presence of mind to take a photo. This is a photo she took over the city of Minneapolis while flying to Atlanta.

And here's the funny thing about Jennie's account. Because when she took this photo, she was just looking out the window upon takeoff and was like, opened the shade. It's like, whoa. What? What? And she said the saddest part was that she looked back in the airplane, and every single person on the plane was looking at their 6-inch screen. All she saw was the glow of people's faces with headphones on, watching in-flight entertainment with their shades shut. She said she wanted to run up and down the airplane aisles. She'd have been taken into safety by an air marshal, though. And she was so blown away. I said, did the pilot say anything? She said, the pilot said nothing.

How perverse would that be to be a pilot watching this, beholding this, but not getting on the intercom and just saying, like I've had a pilot say, well, we're flying over the Grand Canyon. People on the left side of the plane, you might get a little treat. It's like, he didn't be like, hey, just FYI, the heavens are raging with praise. FYI. I would just start singing Chris Tomlin songs if I was the plane captain. Alter call for sure, right? Without a doubt. Last day as a pilot, but it doesn't matter because that whole plane's getting saved, man. I'll tell you right now. Some Psalm 19 going on up in here.

Isaiah 45:3, let's read it one more time, at least. I don't know. Maybe we'll spend the rest of the year in this verse. Who knows? But this is the last planned message from this text. God speaking. "I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places that you may know that I, the Lord, who call you by your name, am the God of Israel". Someone said Levi, what's the Northern Light series all about? And I said, well, it's not any one thing because auroras are all about a reaction. Auroras are all about a reaction. You have all this plasma leaving the sun, a million miles per hour, a ton of it a second, apparently, or a million tons a second. And it travels all this way, 93 million miles, after the eruption of this solar storm. And you have it coming to our planet, bouncing of the magnetic shield, sneaking in only at the poles, the only place where the shield is weak enough for it to actually get in.

And there, the interaction is what leads to it. So the aurora series, this northern lights collection, is not just about one thing. It's about different things interacting. And it's the photons that our eyes can see that dazzle us as a result. So what are the ingredients of this collection? What we're talking about, we're talking about pain and darkness and hard times. And we're talking about God's goodness and His identity, His steadfast identity, His steadfast, resolute love for us.

And then we're talking about His word and us clutching His word and believing His self-disclosure. And these things interacting together, this collision of God's word and pain we face and who God is, that's what can lead to the beauty. That's what can lead to the stunning display over our lives. And we have talked much about hiding God's word in our heart and the power of scripture memorization. That's where we began. We talked last week more about the hard times, the difficult times, suffering and pain and going through difficult things that we face in this world.

And this week, I want to focus on that second half, and specifically that phrase, "the hidden riches of secret places". "The hidden riches of secret places". I want to talk about secret. I want to talk about hiding, about seeking and hiding in the midst of secret places. And I want to do so, hopefully, pointing us to these times, revealing to us who God is, that He is the Lord who calls us by name. So really, you could say today's message would be a guide to going dark, a guide to going dark. That's not my title. That's just sort of where we want to go. If God is going to give us riches, but the riches are going to take place through hiding, through things being hidden and through things being a secret, then we need to have a guide to going dark because going dark is military vernacular, to dropping off of public frequencies.

So a team has gone dark, we need to call that SEAL team and tell them, oh, no, no, no, we can't. They've gone dark now. They're at a place where they're not accessible. They've gone dark. But it's also sort of that language, which began in the military, has crept into other parts of life. So during COVID, Broadway went dark. All these marquees, advertising plays that you could see, Phantom of the Opera, Lion King, Hamilton, Harry Potter, Broadway went dark. The lights went out. You couldn't go see a play. It was not accessible. They were sort of incommunicado or out of reach. If you've ever tried to go to Chick-fil-A on a Sunday, Chick-fil-A went dark, right? You sit there on the drive. You're like, oh, my goodness gracious, the Sabbath. It's not even Sunday. Sabbath is Saturday. Read the Bible. It's like how angry you get. You start getting into the fine nuances of Biblical history. Or if you live in Kalispell, this is just, I don't often, because we're preaching in just about every part of the country and many parts of the world.

So not everyone's going to get local jokes so I keep them to a minimum. But every once in a while, I just got to throw them out there. So if you've ever in Kalispell, tried to go to Taco Bell on a Monday, like what is it? Who doesn't eat tacos on Monday? I don't understand. Taco Bell's gone dark. It's Monday. There are two different times we interact with secret places or hidden places or times where something's hidden. There are times that we choose the secret place. And there are times when the secret place is chosen for us, OK? I want to talk about moments and times in your life of being in a secret or hidden season, of being in a secret or hidden hour.

And I want to do so through those two lenses. So we're going to begin talking about the times that we choose going dark. This is a guide to going dark, the times that we choose to go dark. And then the second part, we're going to get to it, when it's chosen for us. And we are in a dark, and we're in a hidden, we're in a secret season. And to be clear, we did not choose this. We did not pick this. And I'm going to tell you the two things to do, depending on which one you're in. All right. So first what should we do about secret places? We should, first of all, choose it regularly. Hiddenness. Place of secrecy. I want to encourage you. This is me, the pastor, telling you and telling me, choose secret, hidden places on a regular basis. Why? Because something about your God, He loves secret places. He loves secret places.

Psalm 18:11, "He made darkness His secret place. His canopy around him was dark waters and thick clouds of the skies". So we're going to try and choose and prioritize secret places because God loves secret places. And He dwells in secret places. Psalm 27:5, "For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion. In the", say it with me, "secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me". So I choose the secret place. He hides me there. "He shall set me", high, as a result, "upon", say it with me, "a rock," a firm foundation, so that storms can't destroy us. Because we're attached to a firm rock. Let's continue. We could go, I came across 70 or 80 of these. But let's just continue.

Psalm 91:1, "He who dwells in the", say it, "secret place", This is us choosing a secret place, choosing to dwell there, "of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty". If we want to be where God is, He chooses secret places, so we go to be where He is to spend time with Him. And as a result, we get the benefits of rest under His shadow. So this idea of the sun, this beating down on a sun. I was talking to my dad, who was headed to Arizona this week to Mayo Clinic for his surgery on the 1st, which I hope you, do ask that you would be praying for him as he has his tumor removed from his pancreas. But we were looking at the forecast as he heads to Arizona.

I said, well, hopefully, it'll be nice there. And he said, it's going be 115 this week there. That's not a nice sun to be under. I know we who live in Montana and we spend all winter getting the tan removed from us need to spend our spring and summer getting our tan back. We love the sun. But when you live under oppressive sun like that, I've always made my... I love heat. I love heat. I love heat. You get under 115 heat, you don't love heat, right? Even the shade of an umbrella is still oppressive. It's still that hot. And so you spend your life in that kind of heat looking for something to cool you off. Well, that's the spirit of He'll put you under his shadow, protecting you from the heat of difficulty and the heat of suffering.

Jesus said, when you pray, don't be running around, like, making everyone know how spiritual you are. He said, "go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father, who is in the", Secret place. God loves secret, why should we prioritize secret places regularly? That's where God wants to meet with you. God wants to meet with you, not in the clamoring loudness of your normal life. He wants you to prioritize His presence enough to go meet with Him in secret places. Elijah found out God's not in that earthquake. He's not in that fire. He's not in that boisterous wind. He's in that still, small voice. And the father who sees you, Matthew 6:6, in secret, will reward you openly. Jesus didn't just preach this new way to interact with God in the midst of a religious climate that was all about how sexy we are because of what we do for God.

Pharisees wore certain clothes on certain days so everyone would be like, oh, look, they're wearing their sexy jacket. That's a righteous jacket. That's a, ooh, that's their amazing before-God jacket. And Jesus is like, it's not about all that. It's not about what you do for Him. It's about what He did for you and you secretly just delighting in that, enjoying that. Jesus lived this life of secrecy between Him and God. It was this beautiful secret between Him and his father. So one day, His disciples, His brothers, rather, told him and His disciples, you can't be doing all this small-town stuff, miracles in the podunk area of Galilee if you really want to be something. You need to go to the feast. Go make yourself known.

And Jesus, who knew men and knew what was in men, would not commit himself to men. Would not play into his brothers' pressure on his life. He was not going to live from a narrative that was made by man. He was going to live from a secret given to him by His father, His secret mission, that secret whisper of the father, who often time leads us to that gentle voice. And then when we get off track, it's more like a subtle rumble strip. OK. We're going to get back to that secret. He said, I wouldn't do it. So what did he do? This is John 7:10. "But when His brothers had gone up already, then He also went up to the feast", but look at this, "not openly". He went as it were, say it, in, Secret. Very, very sneaky, this Jesus was, right? Not doing what people wanted him to do, living from this hidden secret, from this hidden message that He got by repeated visits to the secret place.

Read your way through the Gospels. Tell me how often Jesus was coming and going from secret places, coming and going from lonely mountains. This was constantly how Jesus lived. Luke 6, verse 12, "In these days, He went out to the mountain to pray. And all night, He continued in prayer to God". He got so lost in this track of time that He got caught up in these secret places. That's just one tiny example of a constant thread throughout the Son of Man's life. Why? He was modeling for us how to relate to our Father, fueled and powered by the secret place like a solar cell on your life that gets charged up by time in His presence so that you can glow when you're not in the secret place.

So you have to keep going back to the recharge station. You have to keep going back to the orientation of the sun to receive what you need for each moment. Some of you are weak today. Some of you have been falling into temptation again. And you're tempted to go, oh, God must not love me. No. It's like, no, you just haven't been on the recharging pad. You've been too long from the delicious rays of the sun falling down. You get into that secret place, you'll find that power again. Get into that secret place. You'll find your soul beginning to sing again. You'll begin to find yourself being your true self, not this corrupted, fleshly version of yourself, where you just do everything you feel, and you just say everything that comes to your mind.

And you just give in to the empty carbs of this world and the empty carbs of your soul. And you find yourself, the more you eat, the hungrier you become. It's like drinking salt water. You need the rivers of living water. You need the Holy Spirit of God to come upon you again. You just need to get back to your true center. That's why Jesus came and went from the secret place. And here's the beautiful thing. The more time you spend with Jesus in the secret place, the more He's going to allow you to understand his secret counsel. Hello. Cool thing about going to secret places is you get told secret things. And while you're with Him, guess what he's doing? Well, he's using his still, small voice. He's whispering precious truths to you. That's pretty good.

Psalm 25:14, "The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him. And He will show them His covenant". Deuteronomy 29 says the secret things belong to God. But as we walk with Him, we get trusted with secret wisdom as well. And in so doing, listen to me, you open yourself up to what otherwise you would just stumble upon. I accidentally saw the northern lights, not looking for them. They came to me. That's pretty good. But let me tell you something. When you go to far places and when you prioritize secret locations and when you're willing to go to where there's a greater chance for them to happen, you're opened up to what one person texted me.

I've become friends with a few aurora hunters. And I talked to one. And he's amazing because he'll tip me off, and he's told me some of the things. And in fact, I did bring to you a list if you want to see physical aurora, some of the things that can factor into it. It's very simple. It's timing because the auroras are oftentimes just after dark. And they peak about 1:00 AM, so the right time of day is critical. So I just happened to show up. My late flight was fortuitous. Location, of course, the further north or the further south you go, the more lucky you're going to become. Darkness plays into it.

So don't be in the middle of a blazing city with all the interference and pollution of light. And then, oh, I could preach this, presence of storms. Presence of storms, greater potential. And we're talking solar storms, nuclear reactions happening in the coronal layer of the sun, these coronal mass ejections, very violent, very fiery, very painful, but greater potential for a greater display over your life in the skies. So these are some of the things you have to think in your mind if you're wanting to see them. And then he, one night, said, they're going off. You should get somewhere where they're going to be. And so I did. I went to the edge of Glacier National Park. And it was on the east side. I went just to the entrance. I was all by myself. And I was scared to death to be out there by myself doing this, looking for them.

And so I just kind of went just past the gate. There was a big telescope area. And I kind of set up there. And my mind's playing tricks on me because more bears than I've ever seen in my life is that area. And so I just got into the shallow end of the pool, basically, and got my feet in and maybe my ankles in and was sitting there. And I got to see it again. Again, it was amazing. But it was no more amazing than I had seen it the last time. So then later that night, I told this friend what had happened. And he said, oh, man, it's too bad you didn't go in deeper. Because a friend who was also there but is in the center of where you only dabbled in the surface, he texted me this photo back.

And I was angry because this has given me super FOMO when I saw this photo. It was like, this is my major FOMO. Nope, that's not it. But pretend you didn't see that and act surprised later. That, that's what he texted me. I settled for this just tease of a secret when that could have been mine. But I'm a father of multiple children. So I think I made the right decision. OK, I got to show up and be here. I can't be going up mountains by myself and never coming back, right? Where's Pastor Levi? Well, he went chasing auroras, and that was the last anybody ever heard of him. But I'll have a great story to tell in heaven if you can find me.

So what's the point? Let's wrap this first half of the message up into very practical, actionable bullet points. Be hard to reach. Some of you are much too easy to reach by people. The easier you are to reach by people, the harder you are to reach by God. I'm not saying live irresponsibly. I'm not saying shirk your assignments, late for work, rolling in late to serve at church. I was meeting with God. You know what? You need to meet with God on your own time, all right? Be harder to reach, but do so when it's a sacrifice to you, not a sacrifice to your employer. Cruising in all late from your lunch. I was just having my quiet time. No, no, that's not a sacrifice.

David said, I will not give to God that which cost me nothing. So we're going to cut into our sleep, or we're going to cut into our TV. We're going to cut into our leisure to give God a sacrifice of praise and prioritize secret, We're going to be harder to reach. We're going to take and focus. And I've had to put guardrails into this because I can't be, as a dad, as a leader of an organization, where, here's exactly where I'm going to be. And here's where I'm going to be if you do need to find me, if there isn't an emergency. But I'm going to prioritize time with Jesus in secret places and not be accessible by Instagram and not be accessible by all those other distractions that are wanting to come in.

Get off the grid. Be by still waters. Lift your eyes. Bend your knees. Catch your breath. Because here's what's potentially there for you. Psalm 36:8, "abundantly satisfied with the fullness of your house. Drink from the rivers of His pleasures". This is what happens when we gather in large group to worship. And this is what happens when we get together in small groups to discuss the difficulty of following Him. This is what happens when we, by ourselves, sing to Him and open up His word and we spend time in the quiet worshiping Him. Be in the right places at the right times. I like what someone said about luck. The harder I work, the luckier I seem to become. So be at the right places at the right times, which is what, Levi?

Scripture and nature. His house, His word, His people, and His creation, and it's this beautiful blend, right? Some people act like being outside is at odds with God, because you'll talk to people like, I don't go to church because nature is my church. How about we worship the God who created the nature and enjoy it and worship Him as He said to worship Him together, not forsaking assembling together? The heavens are not at odds with that. In fact, it's anything but that. Psalm 19, "The heavens declare the glory of God. The firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, night into night", this is auroras and the sunrises, "reveal knowledge". So you can learn something of God's magnificence through creation but only through His word, as the Psalm continues, "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul".

If you want your soul converted, you need His word. You need to be under the teaching of God's word and not just out with the fields alive with the sound of music, but to have your soul actually converted by His word being preached because faith comes by hearing and hearing God's word. God's word rejoices the heart, "the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. More to be desired are they than gold. Yes, than much fine gold, sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb". So we're spending time with God by ourselves and together with His people and in His word. And what can happen?

Verse 12, "Who can understand His errors? Cleanse me from secret faults". When we open ourselves up to this kind of living, the secret faults that we just are sort of dismissing and not dealing with, in the secret place, God will deal with the secret sins. And if you'll allow Him, he'll cleanse those things out because check it. They're going to come out anyway. They're going to come out anyway. I'm going to need a verse for that. I got one. Ecclesiastes 12:14, "God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil". What is whispered, Jesus said, will one day be shouted. So the more we allow God to deal with it now, the less we will have embarrassment and regret later. So we're going to choose the hidden and secret moments regularly.

Now, let us ask the difficult question because that's all fun. Because basically, in the first half of the message I said, have a quiet time. Put your dumb phone down. Watch a stupid sunrise. That's what I was trying to say there. And all of us are like, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, OK. But here's the more difficult half of the sermon. What about the secret times, seasons, places that we don't choose? Everybody loves a restaurant that's the best-kept secret. Don't you love it when you're early to discover, when you're early to be an early adopter, when you sort of have figured out new technology or the new gadget or the new place that no one yet knows, and you get to be kind of in the know? I mean, who doesn't like that? Because you get to be like everyone's annoying friend.

You know what I'm saying? But it's wonderful to go to a place that is insane but no one knows it yet. Guess who doesn't love that? The restaurant. You love that because you can get in. They don't love that. I mean, they're fine with that word of mouth, especially at the beginning in the soft-launch phase. But homie, if that doesn't translate to butts in seats and covers, that sucker's going out of business. So the restaurant doesn't love being the best-kept secret. You see what I'm saying? And neither do you. And neither do I. So yes, it's wonderful to say prioritize secret places. But what about when God says, for the development of your soul and character and future, they need a secret season? They need to be hidden for a time.

And following His voice, doing what he told us to do, we end up in a season of obscurity, loneliness, neglect, where we begin to fear we are being doomed to irrelevance, obsolescence, and being completely and totally by man and by God utterly forgotten. What of these times, when all we can say to God is, how long, Lord? How long, Lord? Because I feel like I'm in a wilderness time. I've been following you just like I followed you back then. And it has been a hot minute since I got a goosebump, a word, a fresh opportunity, some new revelation of who you are, even. It does not feel the same to be thrust into a secret season as to choose one by faith, does it? Can we acknowledge that? Oh, hidden riches of secret places. Yeah, easy to say when you're not in a secret season and everyone seems to be, you're the best-kept secret.

I know I am. And you said I am. But no one seems to realize that. Watching that phone. It's not ringing. No one's calling. No one wants what I have or had. You walk with God long enough through the hills and the valleys, and he's the God of both, and you will know what it is to feel and to fear that perhaps you've peaked. Maybe your best days are behind you. Do I still have anything to give? And this can strike during an empty-nest season, a graduation or transition season. It can come because you just did exactly what you were supposed to do, and you finished a course or a race or a season or a career or a decade or, and you just feel like, have I gone as far as I can go? What now? What next? And God seems to be saying nothing.

And I don't see any heavens breaking over me in the night sky. I wrote it down this way. Maybe this will resonate with you, and maybe it won't. It feels wonderful. It feels luxuriant to go to some secret place when you get to choose. It feels lousy and very unlike pampering your soul to be in a secret place when you don't want to be there. But you see no way out. Because you know what that feels a whole lot like? Being lost. It's amazing to take a hike. Oh, God's so good. Look at the deer drinking out of the creek. And then you find yourself in that same secret place when you don't know how long you're going to be there, and you don't know when you're going to be able to leave, and you're not quite even sure what the way out is going to look like.

Now you're beginning to feel terrified. I see this in scripture. I wrote down probably 15 different places I could turn your attention to as an illustration. But the one that, well, the two that most resonated with me was when Philip had been willing to take the ministry assignment no one wanted. No one liked Samaria, but he chose to go to Samaria, and it worked. And God used him. And it got so big, the revival did, that now the bigwigs from Jerusalem wanted to come down to Samaria and get in on it. And Philip was probably excited about that.

Now I get to hang out with my mentors. I get to hang out with my heroes. And it's a cool reward for him to get to rub shoulders with these that he had respected so much when he was willing to do what they had seemingly been unwilling to do. And then here's where it comes in, Acts 8:26. Now in the midst of this revival, Peter and John are hanging out. "An angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, arise. Go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza". And in case anyone thinks this is a plush ministry assignment, the author says, "This is desert". Yeah. No thanks. Cool if I just stay here and enjoy the fruits of the labors that I gave to this, right? Is it cool if I just hang here and watch Peter and John minister in the church that I started for a second, Holy Spirit, if that is your real name? Because it's probably the devil, anyway.

You know how we just all of a sudden are sure it's warfare when God begins to lead us toward something we don't like, right? It's an oppressive spirit from the Lord, you know. It's not the Holy Spirit. It's the other one. And yet he went. Will you have the faith to follow God into dark, scary, secret places and stay there as long as He says to and trust Him all the while? Because, spoiler alert, Acts 8, it went real good for Philip in the desert. And it can go good for you too.

The point is, there's a purpose for your desert. There's a purpose for your wilderness. There's a purpose for that season of feared obsolescence. You have two choices. You can, when you're in such a season, at a place that's hard, turning 30, turning 40, turning 50, whatever it is, that new season. Kids are off to college, and you have a choice. You have a choice. And the choice is, do I cling to what was passed? Or do I ready myself for whatever is new? Because God is doing a new thing. And if that old phone ain't ringing, perhaps he's getting you ready for some new form of Bluetooth to give you some sort of new communication you're not even ready for.

When the SEALs talk about going dark, it's not that there's no communication. It's just that there's no public communication. The SEALs have switched to a private channel to where they can talk to themselves without any outside prying ears listening in. So perhaps if you're in a season where some walkie talkie in your life has gone dark and there's no chatter on it, maybe it's just time to switch frequencies because God's getting ready for something that's private right now, that eventually, if you keep trusting Him, will be celebrated all around the world. Just trust Him. The second example I thought of was John 11. John 11, Jesus had a best friend. And the best friend's name was Lazarus. And Jesus loved Lazarus. And Jesus loved Lazarus's two sisters, Mary and Martha. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days because he loved Lazarus.

Yeah, you know he loves him because when he heard Lazarus needed him, he didn't do anything because he loved him. He left him in the secret place. Because he loved him and Martha and he loved Mary, he let Lazarus die. Talk about dark. And then Jesus's disciples are more confused than anybody because they were like, Lazarus is sick, and they expected Him to drop everything and go, but He didn't. He let them stay in the desert. He let them have this wilderness phase. And then they're like, oh, OK, I guess we don't like Lazarus. Maybe he did something to make you mad. OK, whatever. So then, when Lazarus finally died, they said, sorry, Jesus. Lazarus died.

And Jesus said, no, he's not dead. He's actually just asleep because he was trying to say that it's temporary, that what's permanent to you is temporary to me. And I can disrupt what even to you is the end of something. So you fear the end of your career. You fear the end of your usefulness in God's hand because you've peaked or plateaued in some way. Or you've reached the end of something, and you fear that there's nothing new for you because all you're looking at is what's behind you, and it's just going to turn you salty like Lot's wife. But if you'll face the forward direction and let God begin to do something new and stir something new inside of you, you will see that what is the end to man can be the beginning in God's hand.

And so they go, oh, well, if he's just sleeping, because they didn't understand anything Jesus said almost any of the time. Jesus said to them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Because they needed a desert moment as well. I have a book in my library I came across this week. I was actually preparing a different sermon. And I needed a book that I was looking for. But my eyes, as they scanned the shelf, came across a book I had purchased but forgotten about and never read. I bought it at a second-hand bookstore in Pasadena, California probably a decade ago. And it has sat in the section of books that are dedicated to suffering all that time, never been opened, never been cracked. And my eye caught the spine.

And immediately, without reading any of the book, even though I read the entire book this week just to refresh myself in this topic, the subject matter of the spine arrested me. And God told me it was for someone today. And I'm not sure who you are. The title of the book is The Weaver Needs Dark Threads. The weaver of a cloth, the weaver of a tapestry, the weaver of a quilt needs dark threads. The dark threads are not what we love to get handed, the desert seasons, our friend died that we prayed would live, laid off, whatever it is. But the weaver of a brilliant cloth needs dark threads too. Our disappointments, our storms, our desert seasons, if we lean in, if we bring Him our tears, if we trust Him in the trial, they can, in hindsight, be our most rich times, the most fertile ground of God depositing what will become a harvest of righteousness.

If we aren't deceived by them but choose instead to be developed in them, maybe, just maybe in those times, God is seeking to build up internal pressure so that, in due time, you will be able to handle the outside pressure. That's why tennis balls come in cans that you have to crack open. They're under extreme pressure, which builds up the internal pressure so they can handle being struck by the racket. The thing that you want God to do in your life is going to come with its own trials and its own temptations and its own difficulties, whatever it is, whether it's some business goal you have or some relationship goal. If it's having kids one day, that's, look, being a parent, being a spouse, being an owner of a company, that's a lot like being slapped with a tennis racket repeatedly, all right? Take it from someone who's seen God do some things through them, it comes with trials. The bigger the level you face, the bigger the new devil you're going to have to deal with in the midst of it all.

So in this season, perhaps God's preparing you for what He's prepared you for so that you aren't destroyed as a victim of your own success. So the most loving thing the weaver of our lives can do is hand us dark threads. I would rather get handed a silver thread, a gold thread, a red thread, a white thread. But the dark thread the weaver needs. You're not buried. You're planted. You're being trusted. You're being developed. "You shall", Psalm 31:20, "hide them in the secret place of your presence from the plots of man. You shall keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues". God develops his best work in unseen places. And if you ever doubt that, just look at yourself. You were developed in darkness.

Psalm 139:13, "You formed my inward parts. You covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are your works that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in secret". I've seen five kids come into this world. All of them came in squinting at the bright fluorescent lights because they were formed in darkness. So if you feel like you're in darkness today, you're just being formed. You're just being prepared for a new birth, for a new beginning, for a new transition, for a new level. So what is my encouragement to you? No matter what you're handed in life, assume positive intent. Assume positive intent. I never did tell you my sermon title. Can I tell it to you? Could it be preach and respond for a second? Yeah. Out of sight, Out of mind. No. Out of sight, on His mind.

We're going to assume positive intent. We're going to assume positive intent. If I'm out of sight for a bit, it's because I'm on his mind. If you call, and I don't answer, if I'm not quick on the email, it's because He's on my mind. But if I'm out of sight, if I feel like I'm being buried, if I feel like I'm being banished, if I feel like I've been forgotten, if I feel like I'm in a storm on the sea, I'm going to trust He's on the mountaintop praying for me. I'm going to trust that His eye is on me. I'm going to believe He's got plans for me.

Come on. He is a good, good father. He's a good shepherd. Team, come on out here. He knows you by name. And He's put you through all he's put you through on purpose for a purpose. Two things to keep in mind, two things to keep in mind as you choose secret places and find yourself sentenced to secret places. Things are, number one, not always as they seem. You're like, this is the same application point you gave us last week. Yeah, but you didn't apply it enough, so I'm giving it to you again.

So when I get handed not what I deem to be a good thing from the hand of God, I get handed a bad thing from the hand of God, if I assume positive intent, I remember to take it with a grain of salt. I remember that God's sneaky, sneaky, sneaky. And so what He hands me with a smirk seemingly on his face, the times that He says, I'm glad I wasn't there, I love you so much I didn't show up in the difficulty, I'm going to assume positive intent. I'm going to look at it through the lens of faith. I'm going to look at it through the lens of what I know about my God. That doesn't just take me by still waters.

Oh, I love me some still waters. Oh, green meadows. Oh, I love green meadows. How about the presence of your enemies? How about valleys, shadow, death. Good Shepherd, don't care. Good Shepherd, not worried. Good Shepherd, I'm interpreting it through the lens of things aren't always as they seem. Nothing on this earth, the way we look at it, is really as it seems.

Can I give you an illustration? When you look at the moon tonight and you see it up in the sky, I saw it still hanging in the sky this morning, you are not looking at the moon as it is. You are looking at the moon as it was one and one third seconds ago. That's how long it takes to light to get to us. So by the time you see it, it's already moved. You're seeing where it was, not where it is. The sun? When you look at the sun, you are looking at the sun as it was eight minutes and one third seconds ago. You have never seen the sun. You've only seen where the sun was. And this continues to play out.

Can I show you this illustration you haven't seen yet about the North Star? The North Star, Polaris, which you can find if you follow the scoop of the Big Dipper to the tail of the Little Dipper, Ursa Minor, as it's called, the North Star, which is fixed, and all the other stars seem to rotate around it from our vantage point. This is the friend to sailors, the friend of the person who is lost. The North Star, this is going to blow your mind, is 323 light years removed from us. That means that when we see the North Star, the next time we look up and see it in the heavens, we are seeing it not as it is, not where it is. We are seeing where it was 323 years ago.

What does that mean, Levi? That means it could be gone, and we would not know. It could have burnt up in 1776, and we wouldn't get the memo for 76 more years because we're not seeing where it is. We're seeing where it was. And when you see pain, you're not seeing what will be. You're just seeing what appears to you to be the story right now. So trust the God who is outside of time.

Trust that in heaven you will look back, just like you look at the scars in His hands, and you will realize that what they were was the worst thing that ever was to His disciples when He died. What they are now is our ticket to paradise, the proof of His love, and our names written, inscribed on the palms of His hands. Don't look for John or Billy or Joe when you see the names written on His hands. Their names were written with nail marks. He wrote your name with nail marks on His hands. And He knows your name. And He calls it, and He speaks it.

The second application now, when we see a hard, banished quote, unquote season, remember the value of what you have in your hands might not be visible, but don't let go. If He entrusted it to you, you hang on to it. I want to close with an illustration from our family. My daughter Clover went thrifting because she wanted a treasure box, jewelry box for all of her bracelets and earrings and necklaces. And she went to a thrift store with my wife, and she bought one for $3, her own money. And she spent this money on it. She bought it. She was so excited about it. Dad, look at this jewelry box I got. Look at it. It was filthy. I saw it. Honestly, I wouldn't touch it. Oh, only a mother could love this jewelry box. She said, don't worry. I'll clean it up. Don't worry. Don't be deceived by how it looks now. I haven't got my hands on it yet, Dad.

And she sat out there, and she scrubbed it, and she scrubbed it, and she scrubbed it. And she found in one compartment an earring. Look at this. I found this crappy, old earring. Look at that. We were all laughing. And then at the very bottom, there were little velvet slots where you can jam stuff in, she found something jammed in there. She thought it was dirt for a while. But then she bumped into it. She goes, no, that's not what it is. And here's what she found. Look at it. Look at it. She pulled out, she pulled out $100 bill. Quality investment, Clover. Epic thrifting. Someone out there is like, that's my grandma's. Too late. You donated it. She made $97 and got a jewelry box, somebody. So what you hold in your hands right now might feel dirty, might feel bad, might feel hard.

Just keep trusting. Just keep believing. Just keep singing. Just keep going. Come on. He knows. He knows. And he knows that the great treasure is not going to be what He does through you. It's going to be what you discover about who He is in the midst of the hardship of this life. He will give you the riches of darkness, the treasures of secret, hidden places that you may know Him who calls you by name. The true treasure is knowledge of the Holy. The true treasure is knowledge of who He is. He says, I am that I am. I see you where you are. I know what you need. I am what you need.

So the great place we can come to is a place of saying just where we began. I just want you. I just want you. I want you more than I want you to do this in my career. I want you more than what I want you to do in my family. I want you more than what I need you to do in my body. I want to know the true treasure. Paul said, when I consider who you are, Jesus, I take everything I could do in my career, I take everything I could ever accomplish, what I would hope my life would be like, and it's garbage. I count it as a loss. That I may be found in Him, that I may have knowledge of who He is, the Resurrection, the power of His presence. So come on, let's just for a moment be still. Let's just for a moment engage in that secret place where He is.
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