Walking In The Dark 

Walking In The Dark

“Who among you fears the Lord? Who obeys the voice of His Servant? Who walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord and rely upon his God.” Isaiah 50:10 (NKJV)

Without a doubt, we are living in some very dark times. Sickness, disease, lockdowns, economic and political problems plague us right now. There is a real possibility of World War III. The darkness seems to be all around us. We are being forced to approve of other people’s sinfulness. We live in dark days. Humanity has been here before, believe it or not. Human history is rife with dominating and violent totalitarian governments, kings, rulers and tyrants who decided that they had a need to take over the world. Some succeeded, and depending upon who’s side you were on, they became great leaders and not only prospered their own country, but also that of their citizens. From Babylon to Assyria, from Greece to Rome, each had their ups and downs with the tinge of brutality.

Human suffering is part of the plan of these men who, when their wealth or power is threatened, force conscripted ‘soldiers’ into the field to die in order to secure said wealth and power. Corrupt leaders only look out for their own self interest, not the betterment of their people and their lands. How are such times to be tolerated? 

The best and arguably, the only way, to navigate such seasons is by being what the Bible calls someone who, “fears the LORD.” Looking at a concordance, you can easily find scriptures that have a definition of the “fear of the LORD.” 

Proverbs 2:5 tells us that we will understand what the fear of the LORD is when we seek wisdom and understanding with all our hearts. Proverbs 8:13 says that the fear of the LORD is to hate evil. Proverbs 9:10 describes the fear of the LORD as the beginning of wisdom. It prolongs our days according Proverbs 10:27, gives us strong confidence (Proverbs 14:26), and in the very next verse (27) is the fountain of life! I could go on and on.

What is the fear of the LORD, then? It is important for us to know in order to apply what Isaiah is saying. Are we living in dark times? Absolutely. Can we trust in the name of the LORD? Only if we are among those who fear the LORD. We get a clue as to what the fear of the LORD is by the next phrase in Isaiah 50:10, “Who obeys the voice of his Servant.” If we fear the LORD, we will obey his Servant. The word is capitalized in the NKJV. The reason? It is pointing to Messiah Jesus. If we obey Jesus, we show the fear of the LORD and we will be able to rely upon him in the darkest of times.

Am I trying to purport a works-based salvation? Yes. Well, no, but yes. Ultimate Salvation, with a capital “S”, is by grace, through faith, not of ourselves, it is a gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8). Even in the next verse, Isaiah 50:11, it says that we can not walk in our own fire:

“Look, all you who kindle a fire, who encircle yourselves with sparks: Walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks you have kindled—this you shall have from My hand: you shall lie down in torment.” Isaiah 50:11 (NKJV)

It can not be more clear; if we walk in our own morality (kindled fire), or even in our own wisdom (fire and sparks), we will find nothing but torment.

But when it comes to salvation, small “s”, from a certain circumstance or difficulty, the only way through that situation is by obeying the voice of the Servant, Jesus. We can not overcome without obeying. He gives us the instructions on how to survive in almost any situation in his word. We just have to apply those things and believe that God’s wisdom is better than ours. 

So, we are saved by grace and saved by obedience. Some might get tripped up by this, but remember, application of light to a dark situation will forever put us on the side of Christ. Lord you have saved us so we ask you to save us in the fear of the LORD.



There is nothing like death to break the will and turn the light of life into the darkness of despair. We were never supposed to experience death. God’s intention was for us to live forever in a loving relationship with our Maker, experiencing the softness of the sun’s glow on our faces, while we tended the earth’s fruitful gardens. After the death of her husband and two grown sons, Naomi is without hope. Darkness has covered her soul like a crisp breeze on a chilly day. She is weary and encounters what all who traverse that path suffer, a crisis of faith.

“Turn back, my daughters, go—for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, if I should have a husband tonight and should also bear sons, would you wait for them till they were grown? Would you restrain yourselves from having husbands? No, my daughters; for it grieves me very much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD has gone out against me!” (Ruth 1:12–13, NKJV)

The first time the word “hope” is used in scripture, it is used in a negative context. Although the word is defined as an expectation, and an optimistic outlook, Naomi uses it to show the impossibility of the situation. She is too old to find a husband, but even if she did unearth a man willing to have children with her, and they had sons, should her two daughters-in-law wait around for them to get old enough to marry? The very idea is absurd. To hope in such a situation would be fool-hearty. Therefore, the only hope they would have is to leave Naomi and find new husbands. Orpah left her mother-in-law after some tears and a kiss. But Ruth clung to Naomi. She wouldn’t leave her side. Was there hope of a husband? No. Her hope was in God. Whatever the circumstance, she would make the right choice and God would take care of the rest.

I encourage you to read the story of Ruth. Spoiler alert: Ruth did meet and marry a good, godly man, all in God’s timing, and she was blessed to be in the lineage of Messiah!

Hopelessness is partly inflamed by the quiet; thought runs from thought in an irresistible race between life and darkness. Impossible situations mean that we have not thought of all the possibilities. But God has. His wisdom is beyond our own. We might go through scenario after scenario in our minds, but he has seen the end from the beginning. When we place our hope in the Lord, we are saying that we have confidence in none other, not even ourselves. We do not know the outcome. We may not get what we want, but we do know the God who leads us.

Placing our assurance in God forces us to ask if he is worthy of that trust and if that hope is worth it. God is worthy of trust because God is good. But what is good? We don’t always know. His “good” may lead us somewhere we don’t want to go. Intrinsically we know that we will have to give up something. There will be a cost to God’s good. It means dying to self, and it is the most difficult thing we will ever face. So then, in hope, we live, and in hope, we die. No matter what, and whatever the cost, we will trust in the name of the Lord our God. Our eager expectation is upon the God of hope.

Walking In Darkness?

Walking In Darkness

“Who among you fears the LORD? Who obeys the voice of His Servant? Who walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD And rely upon his God.” (Isaiah 50:10, NKJV)

There is a kind of darkness so devoid of illumination that it is impossible to see your hand lifted just inches in front of your face. I learned this once again while spelunking in the caves at Devil’s Den in Northwest Arkansas. There are several there. One, in particular, is fierce in its darkness, especially the further you dive into its abyss. A group of us explored deeper until the walls became so tight that to go further required crawling. A few of the younger people with us were capable, let’s just say that I didn’t have the body to go any further so I waited. We had flashlights that lit our path. One direction was the crawl, the other was a deep drop, some 100 feet or so down, and 10 to 15 feet above. The battery-operated torch flooded the cave with brightness below. I moved its beam up and saw what looked like hundreds of bats resting securely upside down fastened to the cave’s ceiling. To my surprise, one, burst open its wings and floated through the large cavern, seemingly irritated by the sudden interruption of effulgence. 

The group left me and another person, who did not want to crawl, alone with only my flashlight. Not wanting to irritate any more of these beautiful creatures, I quickly switched the light off. It was dark. I mean so dark you could feel it. It was the kind of darkness of which nightmares were made. We could hear a few more bats take flight above us. The air was chilly, like in most caves, making it all the more frightening. I lifted my hand to my face and could not see it, I could only feel it when I touched my forehead. The only solution would be to bring back the illumination and point it in a direction where the creatures of the night would not be grieved. 

There is a darkness that lives inside of a man. Sometimes that darkness comes from experiences such as trauma or suffering; sometimes self-inflicted difficulties. But it is still darkness. Cave-style darkness that creeps into the soul. This kind of darkness has the potential to destroy a man. The solution is to trust in the name of the LORD. What we do not do is trust in ourselves.

“Look, all you who kindle a fire, who encircle yourselves with sparks: Walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks you have kindled— This you shall have from My hand: You shall lie down in torment.” (Isaiah 50:11, NKJV)

Darkness has a tendency to overcome and overwhelm all who are effected by it’s icy embrace. But a light that leads nowhere is worse than darkness; it shrouds its true destination. The caverns of hell are aligned with the smoldering of this kind of burn. Trusting in my light, my fire, will bring nothing but torment. Even though there is a fire and ‘sparks,’ the darkness will not go away.

The light that pierces the darkness is Christ, himself. He illuminates the heart of the man who trusts in him and the enemy must run. The soul of that man becomes incandescent, pure, full of lambency and hope. Turn on the light, walk in that light, find everything you need in Jesus.


Stage4 Ministries is a ministry in the mess:


Listening to those who are in crises is one of the most important things we can do. Not everyone is the same and hearing their story allows us to be part of the solution and not add to the problem.

Encouraging people to understand that there is a lot of hope in the advances of the medical system. There are many options for those living with a terminal illness. But when that hope ends, and it will, there is another, greater hope that begins. We get to tell them about the hope of a relationship with Jesus Christ.


Stage4 Ministries was nothing more than an idea for years. Steve Marquez was the senior pastor of the Calvary Chapel in Fort Smith, Arkansas for 15 1/2 years until he was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and the ministry aspect of pastoring became too much. 

There were plenty of organizations that could help with the physical and medical needs of the cancer patient. Some helped with cutting hair, massages, good nutrition. These were all great, but there was a gaping hole: spiritual care.

They found that there were plenty of “Cancer Ministries” at the local church, but none that were readily available for them to call and pray with or share scriptures or where they could get assistance on this level. As they struggled with this, and prayed for this type of ministry, the idea came to them. They could start the ministry themselves! It would be like water for the weary soul!

That is when the idea of Stage4 Ministries came to mind. As a cancer patient, Steve knows the needs of other cancer patients, and Monica knows intimately what it means to be a caregiver.

Moses Meltdown

Traveling along the rocky road of a cancer patient brings incredible highs and devastating lows. It is inevitable that along the way you meet people who happen to be going in the same direction. Relationships are developed that make the travel a little lighter. Then, one by one, they are called to their eternal home. Their wandering is complete. It is a great joy for them and a blow to us who cherished their friendship.

There are turns along this highway, a scan, a doctor’s appointment that doesn’t go quite the way it should, and darkness takes over. People ask how I am able to overcome and even put a smile on my face when things are so difficult. They say that my wife and I are such great examples. But they don’t see the times that I am in tears and want to give up.

Moses felt that way. He was the reluctant champion of the children of Israel as he exclaimed to Pharaoh, “Let my people go!” Pharaoh responded by making life more difficult for the Hebrew slaves. Moses went before God and asked why he would call him to make life more difficult for those who were already oppressed. Eventually, God set the people free only to see them commit the sin of unbelief and, for forty years they wandered aimlessly through the desert. During that time, Moses would hear the murmuring and complaining of the people over and over and over again. It was too much for him. He broke down. 

“I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me.”

Numbers 11:14, ESV

There comes a time when we all reach a tipping point. We have tried to maintain the balance. Ruin on one side, glory on the other; but then we tip and fall. We can’t handle that burden and, we are at our wits end; exactly where God wants us to be. The time must come when we realize we can not hold things together on our own. We need strength above what we can muster, to find it, we must give up. Jesus said,

“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Matthew 16:25, ESV

This hope is what puts a smile on my face after the initial shock of a new diagnosis; or an existing painful medical issue that must be dealt with by either new medication or surgery. When I have a Moses’ Meltdown, I must remember where my strength comes from.

“He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

Isaiah 40:29–31, ESV

Waiting for God is a euphemism for a life devoted to him. Physical strength doesn’t matter. Weakness, sickness, disease? They do not matter. When we devote ourselves to God, he devotes himself to us and we find the strength we have been looking for.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28–30, ESV

Do you have a huge burden to carry? Jesus says, “Come.” Are you suffering the painful loss of a loved one and you are overwhelmed? Jesus says, “Come.” Did a doctor tell you that you have terminal Stage4 cancer? Jesus says, “Come.” If we come to him, we will find rest for our souls. Oh, how we need rest. Do you feel his gentle heart as he speaks peace to you now?

God loves you even though you are suffering. He has his reasons for allowing you to go through the pain. Perhaps it is because he wants to show his strength in your weakness. Fall on him if you can not stand. He will lift you up.

A Father; A Grandfather

As I was reading scripture this morning, I noticed something about Josiah, king of Judah. His dad, Amon, did evil in the sight of the LORD; his grandfather, Manasseh, was one of, if not the most wicked king Judah ever had. Yet, at a very early age, Josiah sought the LORD.

“For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet a boy, he began to seek the God of David his father… (2 Chronicles 34:3, ESV)

Why would this boy-king seek the Lord at the tender age of sixteen? Although his grandfather’s wickedness is legendary, so was his repentance. Manasseh was captured by the enemy and imprisoned. While there, he sought the LORD with all his heart, humbling himself, committing himself to do those things that were right in the sight of the LORD. 

As I read about this king or that king in their early stages of reign in the book of 2 Chronicles, I see that some kings did that which was good and others that which is evil, often in succession. A good king fathers an evil one and vise-versa. Manasseh fathered Amon; Amon fathered Josiah. In one instance, a young king’s mother influenced him for evil. (2 Chronicles 22:3) Perhaps this was the case for all the kings? Did they have nanny’s that had an influence on them? Teachers, as in the case of Jehoiada? (2 Chronicles 24:2) Whatever it was, the change could be stark; one king wanting to destroy everything evil, the next raising those things back.

In the case of Josiah, I’ll bet his grandfather’s transformation, and the unmitigated deviation shown by his wicked father, had an impact on him. I would like to believe that the contrast of Grandpa Manasseh’s contrast showed Josiah that the LORD will receive all who come to him and will in no way cast them away for good.

Manasseh had a great influence on his son as well. Amon wanted to be like his dad, doing everything just as dad did. He relished in it and knew that not only would he be like father, but would even outdo him. When Manasseh returned from captivity, he was a changed man. I am sure Amon could not, or would not, understand. I could hear there conversations now. 

“You must serve the LORD now, Amon. I was wrong in all the evil that I did. I led the nation in wickedness and evil, but now I see the desolation I caused, and it is beyond what I can bare.” Said the older and wiser king.

“But dad, you were great at what you did! You were feared. You were a great king. You still are a great king! I loved everything you did and all that you accomplished.” Said the young prince.

“No, my son,” said Manasseh, “You must not say such things. Remember the LORD. Learn of him, seek him, he will be found by those who seek him.”

“I just don’t get it dad.” Said Amon.

But, in the room was a four-year-old little boy named Josiah. His ears were as open as his heart and such a tender age. Josiah loved his grandfather. He never knew him as the evil, harsh man he was before, but only a tender, loving, and godly grandfather. Josiah knew that one day, he would want to be like his grandfather.

When he began to reign as king, just four years later, he would only remember grand-dad and his admonition to follow the LORD. Even at that age, although not really ruling, but under tutors and teachers to learn how to reign, he knew he wanted to be a godly king. The reason? Because of a godly man that once was a wicked man. As he progressed in school, he began to be assured in his desire to seek the LORD and, at sixteen, he made his choice as king. 

Where are you at, dad? Do you feel as though your B.C. (Before Christ) days are haunting you? Do you see that your children are not walking in the ways of the LORD? Each son or daughter will have to make a choice for themselves. They will have to decide whether they will do that which is right in the sight of the LORD or whether to do evil. But that does not mean that you do not have a chance to make a difference, even when you feel as though your words are hitting a brick wall. Remember, God is faithful. Continue in prayer. Continue to be a light and a witness. Don’t give up because God will not give up on you.

Calling All Sinners

“And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Mark 2:17, ESV

Jesus broke the mold. According to Leviticus 22:1–6, if a person touched or even was around someone unclean, they became unclean. So eating and drinking with ‘sinners’ was tantamount to committing Rabbinical-Holy-Man suicide. Jesus ate with sinners and tax collectors (the worse category of sinners of the day) because they needed the most help.

This reminds me of my High School days. A lot of the time I got to know my teachers and sat in the front row of desks. Why? Because I was such a good kid? No. I was actually kind of a pain in the neck. I was constantly getting into trouble, oh, not bad stuff, just ‘horsing’ around and constantly joking and talking. The teacher would put me in front because she wanted to keep her eye on me. I truly believe they wanted to help me. 

Later, when I became a believer at 16, I still wasn’t fully under control yet. I remember ditching one of my classes and sitting on one of the stairways, the principal walked up and asked me what I was doing. Actually, I was reading my Bible and showed him. He was not mad. He didn’t even tell me to get to class. He asked if I believed what the Bible said. I said I did. He asked for the Bible and he opened it up to Proverbs 12:1 and showed me where it read:

“Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, But he who hates correction is stupid.”

Proverbs 12:1, NKJV

I’ll never forget that day. A man of such a high standing in the school and he spent time with me. He knew I didn’t want to be stupid. Then he said I could have the day off from that class, but I needed to be there the next day.

Jesus did something similar when he met with those who were the social outcasts of the day. Instead of making him unclean, he made them clean. He preached the gospel to them. He allowed them to get to know him and offered them forgiveness. 

Jesus was a religious leader. And he wasn’t. He wasn’t anything like those who paraded around in flowing robes demanding respect from the masses. No, he was a leader with integrity. The other religious leaders could not understand why Jesus would meet with sinners. But there were no others that needed the kind of doctoring he would bring them. They needed compassion. The religious leaders wanted them to be isolated.

When Jesus said that he didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners, he didn’t mean that there were certain righteous people that could not be saved, but in reality, there were none that could be saved. Only a confessed sinner sees their need for a Savior. A self-righteous person does not, and therefore, they never are saved.

The Great Physician is with you. If you humbly go to him, he will give you the greatest of all healings-the forgiveness of sins and being accepted in his family. 

What Would You Give Up?

…what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

Matthew 16:26b, NKJV

What are we willing to give for our soul? What does a soul cost? What did it cost God? The price of something, contrary to popular belief, is not equal to its value but is equal to the value placed upon it by the purchaser. My house is only worth what someone will pay for it, not how much I want to sell it for.

God places our souls at a high value. He purchased our soul, not from us, but from, as it were, in slavery. We were wholly owned by another. We sold our soul to the selfish way, to the pride and foolishness for the purchase price of that for which gains us nothing. Have you ever desired something so great, then when you finally received it, the shine dimmed? You were no longer enamored by it. In fact, many have garages that are littered with things that we HAD to have. We paid high prices for each because they had value to us, but in the end, the thing was not as valuable to life as we supposed.

Have you ever made the foolish deal and traded something that had great value for something that had little or even became worthless with time? When I was a much younger man, I did. I had a very nice 12 string acoustic guitar and an electric, with an amp and traded it at a pawn shop for a drum set that was worth half the price, which I later had to sell to pay some bills. I wondered at the time why the owner of the shop was so eager to make the deal. The pawnshop is both the greatest ally and fiercest enemy of the musician. When we need money, they provide it, but, like the devil, when we want it back there is a much higher cost.

Reminds me of the proverb…

It is good for nothing,” cries the buyer; But when he has gone his way, then he boasts.

Proverbs 20:14, NKJV

In Jeremiah 2:11-13, the accusation by the Holy One is that Israel has made a deal with the pawnshop—in my vernacular. They traded that which is priceless for that which is worthless. How? Because it looked shiny. We always want the shiny and reject the consistent. We have everything and we become bored with it. Oh, that we would see the value of our relationship with God and never underestimate our worth to Him.

May we repent of that which causes the behavior to flourish. Foolishness and pride are the roots that must be removed. Although it is difficult to do so, ultimately, if we are to be fruitful, even if an exhausting and punishing task, the result will be worth every bead of sweat.


May the LORD richly bless you. Have you sinned a sin of which you believe God will never forgive? Rest assured that you will find the blood of Jesus a great cleanser indeed. There may be consequences to your actions, but His grace will change you from the inside out. Ask him for his forgiveness and for Him to shine his light in your darkness to find the recesses and corners that might be cleansed. Follow Him all the days of your life and you will see, over time, a transformation of mercy and a walk of grace. For prayer, please email me or leave a comment.


Our Days Are Numbered

Steve Marquez
July 1, 2015

“So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

Psalm 90:12

Wisdom is knowing our limitations. I remember a few years ago that I played basketball with some young men at Calvary Chapel Bartlett. After a few minutes, I was completely exhausted. I had to step out of the game and let a younger man take my place. When I sat down next to another man my age, I told him, breathing heavy, sweat pouring down my face, and every muscle in my body aching, that I was exhausted. Staring straight forward and shaking his head, he said,

“A man’s got to know his limitations.”

How true that was and is. There is wisdom in knowing limitations. We can thrive when we know them; we can kill ourselves when we don’t.

There is a limited amount of time to accomplish what God wants to accomplish in and through us. It is as if the clock is ticking and we are on Jeopardy. If we wait long enough, the buzzer goes off and we lose the opportunity. For some, the buzzer of life will sound sooner than they thought. I have read countless obituaries where a young man or a young woman had been driving too fast, flipped their car, and died on the spot. I am sure when they left the house that day, they said goodbye to their parents, and didn’t realize it would be their last goodbye.

The wisdom in numbering our days is realizing that no matter how long we have, it is a short time. Even if we live seventy or eighty years it’s a short time. When I was first diagnosed with cancer and went through surgery after surgery, I realized how fragile life was. A doctor could tell someone that they only have a month to live, but they could step off a curb the next day, get hit by a car, and die. The doctor was wrong, they only had one day to live.

Wisdom is learned by understanding the fragility of life. We have a short time. What are we going to do with what we have? Paul said,

“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

Ephesians 5:15-17

What should we do with the time that we have? We should focus on what is important. Being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness puts things into perspective. When the doctor says, “Cancer” things change. At that point, life is not so much about stuff as about people. The spiritual world becomes more important; the physical goes away. Family and friends become much more important.

We’ve all been given the same diagnosis. We each have a disease that will eventually kill us. It’s called sin. There is a treatment for it, but eventually, it will get us. On that day when we take our final breath, we will not be concerned about how much money we made or about the accumulation of stuff.

For me, my thoughts went to what kind of husband I had been. What kind of dad? Did I impart enough wisdom to my boys? Did I show them enough discipline to develop their character? Did I point them to Jesus? What did I do to influence them for the kingdom of God?

As an exercise, today I will diagnose you with a deadly disease. I don’t know how many days you have left, but they are numbered. Write down what you’d like your legacy to be… and, with wisdom gained, live it while you still have the chance to do so.