Raven Cannon, Children's PastorAugust 19, 2019
Pastor Raven encourages us to focus our eyes on the Light of Christ.
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All right, so I have a tough time in the morning getting my kids up. I do. But you know what? I have a tough time getting myself up. My husband is really good at getting up in the mornings. He’s usually up before everyone else, getting everything done. But I struggle. It’s just a hustle and bustle every morning, Monday through Friday. Violet, she’s always having a hard time getting in there to brush her teeth. I’m always reminding her, you need to brush your teeth. You don’t want to be that child that’s walking around and people are thinking she’s got bad breath. Blue is always at the last minute, “mom, I need some milk before we leave.” I’m rushing into the kitchen, grabbing the refrigerator door, and saying, “okay, here’s your milk. Let’s go.” We’ve got to get to the car and we have to go fast. This happens Monday through Friday.
I look forward to this one day a week and it’s called Saturday. On Saturday I come in and think, “okay, Saturday is going to be a great day. We’re going to wake up. We’re just going to walk around in our pajamas. It’s going to be an awesome day.” All of a sudden I hear these little feet. They’re coming down my hallway. Then the door flies open. The next thing I hear is, “mom, mom,” with their stinky breath. Next, it’s, “mom wake up, mom, get out of the bed.” I get up and rise to the occasion. I go fix them breakfast. I fix myself some coffee. I look over at the clock thinking, yes, it’s got to be eight o’clock, 8:15. But no, it is 6:30 AM.
As a mom, I rise to the occasion. It comes naturally. It comes by instinct. It is custom for us to know what to do when our kids cry. When our kids have booboos, when our kids laugh, we know exactly what to do. We just rise to the occasion. We know the right sounds, but we also know the wrong sounds. When we’re in Target, we’ll be in one section and you will hear several babies screaming, mommy, mommy. But there is something about that one voice that we hear above all of that. It’s our own saying, mommy, mommy. It just grabs our attention because we have this inner instinct. It’s accustomed to us to just tune our ears, tune our hearts to our own, our own kids. I’m very accustomed to rising to the occasion as a mom.
What I want to share with you is that it’s not just moms who have the inner instinct. It’s all of us. We all have an inner instinct that calls us to rise to the occasion. Yes, moms have this on lockdown, but I want you to see something. We all have a moment. We all have a moment that God wants to call us into that we can rise out of something, into His awesome light. Today we’re going to be talking about some of the things that we can rise out of. I want to share with you today about the dark places. The dark places in our lives, because we all have them. We all have dark places in our lives, places where we desperately need His light to shine. Just a few weeks ago, we celebrated Easter. Easter is a reminder that Jesus is the light that shines in the darkest places.
When we receive Him, we will sense His spirit give us the strength to rise to the occasion. The catch is, it’s up to us to rise up. So this takes us right into the portion of scripture that I want to share with you today, that’s in your handout. I want to take some time here to unpack this. Before we read the scripture, I want to give you a little context. In Isaiah 60:1-3, it was a calling to Jerusalem. It was a calling. I want to talk about Jerusalem just for a moment because Jerusalem, in poetic terms, if you think about it, is symbolic to mean God’s people. He was talking to the people of God. In chapter 60, the prophet, Isaiah, renews the promise here of a new day for the community of faith. He assures the people that God has not forgotten them. That their mission as a light to the world has not changed. So the new events transpiring are going to mark the beginning of God’s new day for His people.
Let’s read this verse together with that in mind, “Arise Jerusalem or arise, people of God, let your light shine for all to see. For the glory of the Lord rises to shine on you. Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth, but the glory of the Lord rises and appears over you. All nations will come to your light. Mighty Kings will come to see your radiance.” To give you some context about what is happening in this passage, we have to go back a chapter. You have to see something that was happening before the promise. Before this new day happened, there was something that they came out of.
Isaiah 59, it was a dark place. It was a place where they were struggling. They had serious problems and God wanted to address them. He wanted to address the dark places in their lives. He wanted to rescue them. During this dark time, part of the reason that they were going through this was that they had been disobedient. They had undermined the mission of what God had set out for them to do. They needed to be restored with hope, deliverance, and blessing. In the midst of darkness and the loneliness of this disappointment, God still desired for Jerusalem, the people of God, to be a light to the nations.
What an amazing God, what an amazing God that even in our darkest times, He still sees such beauty. He still sees such life in all of us. He wanted to restore back to them that radiance. That’s the best part. The best part about reading this scripture is the promise that God wants us to rise out of our dark places and into His glorious light. It wasn’t just for that time. It’s for us now too. It’s for all of us at this moment. His promise still stands, but not without challenge. Because, dark places, they’re hard to rise out of. They’re easy to get stuck in. I want to talk about that today because rising to the occasion is going to be a challenge. It’s going to take some legwork and work to do it, but it’s possible. Rising to the occasion is possible. If we go back to verse two, it says, “that darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth.” But here’s the best part, “But the glory of the Lord rises and appears over you.”
The glory of the Lord means the presence of God. Do you know what that means? It means that God is present even in the darkest times. God is always there. We are not forgotten, but instead, we’re commissioned to rise. The last time I shared with you, I shared a story about moving from Alabama. I had been there for my whole life. 13 years of that time, I was in full-time ministry at a church that my dad pastored. I was there for 13 years, full-time, in youth and children’s ministry. During that time, I had some tough times. We’ll talk about that in just a minute. But here at this moment, I want to share with you what happened to me in 2018.
In 2018, at the beginning of the year, before the year started, I began to ask the Lord to give me a word for my year. I used it as a theme and I named my year, rise. I want you to know that I had no idea that I would be coming to San Francisco in October of that year. I had no idea. At the beginning of that year, I was planning on being the youth pastor and the children’s pastor at that church. That was my plan. I wanted to rise. I wanted to level up in my walk with God. That’s what I was praying for. I began to theme out that 2018 not knowing what was up ahead. In 2019, I’m here. I look back and I think, ‘wow, I really did something there. It really came to reality, because I wouldn’t be where I am today if I had not focused there or I wouldn’t be right here today, at this moment, on this stage, sharing with you today.’ So in 2019, it’s coming and I’m thinking about it. I say, ‘okay, Lord, I need you to give me another word.’ I had never done this before. This is going to be my second go around.
I said, ‘okay, give me one more word.’ I could not get away from the word shine. I had no idea that pastor Terry was going to preach a series on, Rise, in 2019. I had no idea that he was going to do the Rise And Shine devotionals. I didn’t find it coincidental. I find it as a connection that only God can make. What made me choose the word? Rave, why did you choose a word to theme your years? Is it something you did before? No, it wasn’t something I had done before, but 2017 was a rough year for me. It was tough. I was struggling. I had some dark places in my life. I wanted some healing. I believed that God could heal me from my past. I had pain from my past and was trying to heal. I was surrounded by heartbreak and I was surrounded by fear. I so desired 2018 to be different.
I wanted it to be a year of healing. I wanted to rise out of that. I knew that God wanted to rescue me out of the darkness and I wanted to rise. So when I went home at Christmas time, I went to visit my family in Alabama. There’s one of my favorite places to shop in Alabama. I went there when I went to Alabama, I went to my place to shop. They have artwork and stuff there. I like to decorate my house. I went and was walking through and I saw this piece. It just stopped me in my tracks. It was a quote. I like to put quotes and scriptures in my house to remind me of the word. This quote, it just stopped me.
I said, ‘Matt, we have to take that home with us.’ He said, ‘Raven, we don’t have room in the luggage.’ I said, ‘I don’t care.’ We even bought another piece of luggage to carry this home in because I thought, we are taking it. I want you to know, this quote impacted me so much that I put it in my home. I walk by every day and declare it over my life. This is the quote. It said, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.” If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you. Because rising out of the dark place into the light is going to require some changing. It’s not going to be easy. My thoughts, my heart, my emotions, and my steps need to change so that I can rise to the occasion. Because I had painful places. I had dark places that were touchy and God wanted to heal me. But for me to rise into His light, I needed to be willing to change and transform. It was my occasion.
You have to be willing to look at our darkness. To look at those dark places because it empowers us to change. Just like Jerusalem, the people of God belong to Him. He’s not forgotten us in our dark places. He’s commissioned us to rise. We all have this occasion. This is not just for moms. It’s for all of us. We all have an occasion. We all have a moment that requires us to rise out of the darkness, into the light of God’s hope and restoration. But it will require us to be open to change. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. It’s worth the rewards of radiance that we can receive through Christ. I think about a mom expecting. Many times you will hear people say, look at her. She’s glowing, right? She’s glowing. She looks beautiful. She just glows with confidence. But you know what? It’s not her that is glowing. It is what is within her that is glowing. That is radiant.
What is within us? What is resonating from us? As followers of Christ, we must fill our lives with a spirit of God so that it glows within us. So what needs to change? What needs to change so that we can rise? We can go on for days with things that need to change; the world, education, health care, our schools, our churches, our families, our relationships. But until the change happens in us, our hearts will be pained out of disobedience.
We need to rise out of mistakes. Those dark places sometimes are the cause of mistakes in our lives that we’ve made. Sometimes we repeat those, making it a very dark place that requires change. We can become defeated and stuck. Then we can miss our moment. We can easily miss the moment that God has called us to rise to because we’re stuck in this bad part of our life. This is Isaiah, he’s saying and reminding us to grow. He’s reminding us to be drawn to the light because when we get stuck, we lose our radiance. We become dull and that’s not what God wants for us.
Just for a few more minutes, I want to talk about how we can rise to the occasion. How we can walk into the inheritance and promise of God. Many times we pray, ‘God, please change our situation. Please change this situation. I don’t know what to do with it.’ What God really wants to do is change us. He wants to change our hearts to be in line with His. That will define our purpose. It will define our character. How do we do that today? How do we rise to the occasion? The first thing I want to share with you this morning is that we have to lift our eyes, to see the darkness in a different light. Lift our eyes to see the darkness in a different light. Because when hope is gone, it’s easy to get lost in the darkness. If we reposition our eyes, if we can get our eyes upon the Lord, we are putting our face in the sunlight, Jesus. That is the balm of healing.
It’s like when you go outside. I don’t even know if the sun’s shining because I can’t tell right now. But when I got here, it was not shining. It was a little foggy. I was thinking, okay, Lord. But for real, when you go outside and the sun is shining, man, you just feel like this is going to be a great day. It just automatically lifts you. But when you go outside or you open the shade and it’s dark and gloomy and foggy, you just want to sleep in. You just want to cuddle up under the blanket and just say, I should call in sick today. Let’s think about it like this. Let’s think about it in a different light. God may be stepping into our darkness to bring us into sacred, purposeful divine places. The dark places in our lives could be the pathway to the best and the most sacred places. It could be God preparing us for a stronger season, spiritually.
God wants to address the darkness in our lives. He wants to bring about hope and healing to it. All we have to do is stand on that promise from Isaiah, that God will appear over our darkness. Do you know what that means? It means that He will meet us there. He will be with us. He has not forgotten us. He will stand with us and He will restore hope to us. All we have to do is lift our eyes unto Him, the sunlight. So He can begin His work in us that is transformational. Maybe that’s focusing on the good things instead of the bad things. Beyond the fear, beyond the doubt, beyond the hopelessness, the pain, the hurt, the depressing moments, the discouragement, is rise to the occasion.
Let’s go back to the scripture that pastor Terry has been sharing with us in Jeremiah 29:11. It’s also in your handout. This is just such an awesome promise, “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster. To give you a future and to give you hope.” This is where the stretch is going to come in. Rising to the occasion is possible. That scripture is there to give us a declaration. To give us a promise to stand on. A promise that it is possible, that we can rise out of dark places into the light of God’s goodness.
I have a way of folding my laundry. My husband doesn’t do it right. My children have a way of folding laundry. It’s usually stuffing it in the drawers. I have a way of making the bed. I’m trying to teach my kids how to make the bed. Violet goes into the room to make her bed, and then she walks out. I said, “honey, the sheets are still hanging out on the side.” She said, “oh, that’s my signature.” She’s a little sassy. I guess she got noticed. But I had to be open to the fact that she has an imagination. I had to be open to the fact that, it’s okay, my perfectionist wants you to tuck those sheets in. But it’s going to be okay if she doesn’t make it right every time. I had to be open to transformation.
Are we making room for God’s way to be above our ways? Are we open-minded to His word? Are we picky about what applies to our lives from His word? Today, let’s lift our eyes. Let’s reposition. Let’s get back with our faces in the sunlight. Let’s lift our eyes to see the dark places in a different, more sacred light. Then this next step of rising to the occasion is very important. Choose praise over pain. Choose praise over pain. It’s easy to get caught up in the inner world of anxieties, the pressures to please, and the fears. The enemy wants to play mind games on us, causing us to believe things that are not true. When my worries and anxieties are just too much, because it happens, I have learned a great lesson. One of those things is, I like to grab a worship song, put it on repeat, and drive the rest of my family crazy.
I like to speak the truth and sing the truth over my life, as a declaration. Choosing praise over pain. I learned this as a little girl. My dad was a pastor, but for many years before that he was an evangelist and he would travel the country. One of his favorite messages, well, I don’t know if it was his favorite. It was my favorite. One of my favorite messages that he used to preach was called praise Him. People love this message so much that he got a, ‘praise Him’ license plate cover to go in the front of our Lincoln town car in the nineties. I was a little embarrassed. But we had this, praise Him. Everywhere we went, it said, praise Him. My dad would preach this message and say, “praise Him, praise Him, praise Him, praise Him.”
I remember as a little girl, my dad telling this story. His brother was in a car accident when I was younger and they called him to the hospital. They told him it’s life-threatening, we don’t know if he’s going to live. My dad went to the man’s bedroom. When he got there, he lifted his hands and said, I will praise you if you take him. Even if you take him, I will praise you. Choosing praise over pain is powerful. He walked out of that hospital with no scratches. He’s a pastor today.
I want to give you an example of how powerful it is. One of my favorite songs that I have on repeat right now for this season of my life. I’m going to read some lyrics to you. It says, “I raise a hallelujah in the presence of my enemies. I raise a hallelujah louder than the unbelief. I raise a hallelujah, my weapon is a melody. I raise a hallelujah, heaven comes to fight for me. I’m going to sing in the middle of the storm. Louder and louder, you’re going to hear my praises roar. Up from the ashes, hope will arise. Death is defeated. The king is alive.” Woo. That takes stretching when you’re in a difficult place. When you’re in a dark place at the moment of darkness, we sometimes freeze or get stuck in unhealthy patterns. But we can declare praise in those dark places and begin to rise. All we have to do is to start singing and speaking praise.
Our last step, before we leave today. This thing is powerful. Naming your season. It’s something I did. I don’t believe I’d be right here at this very moment if I had not named 2018, Rise. That spoke something to the heart of God. It said to Him that I was ready. I was ready to level up in my faith walk. So try naming your year. I know it’s in the middle of the year, but go ahead and do it anyway. Maybe we should try it. Maybe we should try naming our year and give a name or a theme for this season of your life because it gives definition and focus. As we stretch to rise, we need a focal point.
We can speak the sacred things over our life. This is a great way to define the season you’re in and plant seeds of hope and restoration. What if we held to the promise? Maybe we’re a mom or a dad with a mixture of uncertainty. We just don’t know what we’re doing. We’re not sure if we can rise to the occasion. Yes, you can. I can rise to the occasion. What if we said, I’m a parent with kids who have gone spiritually south? I will rise to the occasion. I’m a daughter or a son with hurt from my childhood, but I will rise to the occasion. I’m a friend who has been wounded, but I will rise to the occasion. I’m a follower of Christ and I’ve been struggling, but I will rise to the occasion. Speak these things into your life.
Let’s look back one more time in Isaiah 60:1-3 and allow the promise to stand. “Arise Jerusalem. Arise people of God. Let your light shine for all to see.” See, we can rise to the occasion. It’s a challenge that will change you. It’s a challenge that will change you. No matter the struggles, no matter the occasion, we will still rise. Then, this is the best part, we shine. Because if we’re going to rise, we might as well shine.
I want you to remember these things today, lift your eyes, to see the darkness in a different light. Let’s choose praise over pain. Let’s praise Him in the middle of our storms. Then let’s take another intentional action step today. Let’s begin to pray and seek God. What would you like my season, my theme to be? Let Him put a word upon your heart. Write it down, put it somewhere where you can see it. Let it plant faith into your life.
We’re about to get to our time of giving and our closing song. I want to remind all the moms today, well, first off, thank you for letting me share with you. I also want to say, ‘moms, you are special.’ We have something great to give you right after service. So make sure you check that out. Also, make sure you get a picture with your family if you can. But we’re going to pray over the word today. Let it seal God’s truth into our lives.
Lord, we thank you. We thank you for these moms. We thank you for this congregation. We offer this word up to you. We ask God that we would be bold this week to rise to the occasion. That you would make us strong, Lord. That we would choose praise over pain. No matter the dark places that we have in our lives, that we would arise into your light and be bold about it, God. Give us a word in this season, God, for our lives. We thank you for it in Jesus’ mighty name. Amen.