5.01.2018

Don't give up!

I was reading in Judges 1 this morning--a disappointing story for the Israelites after the glories of victories under Joshua to take the Promised Land. The tribes of Israel, in one way or another, "failed to drive out" the enemies whose land they were to dispossess and which had already been given to them by God.

What were they missing? They had the promise of the Lord's help and complete victory, and they already had the covenant right of ownership to the land and promise of complete prosperity there. They also knew from their experience under Joshua's leadership that when they fought the battles the way the Lord commanded, they won. But how sad to read of their compromise, their failure to press in until the thing was done. They weakened themselves and failed to receive all the goodness the Lord had promised them. Yes, disappointing!

There's such a strong parallel and message here for me, for us, in the battles of life. We have been given "all things pertaining to life and godliness" through Christ's victory, and have the promise of His prevailing victory in every confrontation. We need to press in and declare our victory in faith, and not back down until we have received our answer in full. How do we "battle"? We have Christ's authority, the name of Jesus, His precious Blood, the Word of God, the gift of prayer, and the power of the Holy Spirit. Our victory is assured!

What is it you need today? Are you tempted to let go because the fight of faith is too hard or too long? Don't give up! Your answer might be closer than you know. To give up now might mean living in compromise--a half-answer or none at all. Remember, the Lord has already "given you the land" and rewards those who stay the course.

Bible study:  Judges 1; 1 Peter 1:3; 2 Corinthians 2:14; James 5:11; Luke 10:19; Revelation 12:11; Ephesians 6:17; John 14:16

12.24.2017

Jesus, Our Light - Day 12


Heaven's Light


The call to "walk in the light as He is in the light" (I John 1:7) is the invitation God has spoken to mankind since the beginning when He said "Let there be light" (Genesis 1:3). It was never His plan to leave us in the devastation and darkness that sin caused. The good news of Christmas!

The Lord is building a kingdom of light-transformed people who love Him and will spend eternity with Him, enjoying Him and everything they were created for. That little baby in Bethlehem was the Father's promise of perfect and restored life for us.

And the best is yet to come! Listen to what Isaiah prophesied centuries before Christ came:

"The sun shall no longer be your light by day,
nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you;
But the Lord will be to you an everlasting light,
and your God your glory."
~ Isaiah 60:19

He was not only referring to Jesus being the Light of redemption, but also the Light of heaven. Just as we see God commanding light to shine at the beginning of the Bible, at the end we see him declaring what our eternal home will be like after the end-times events. The apostle John, in the book of Revelation, describes the new, heavenly Jerusalem:

"The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it,
for the glory of God illuminated it.
The Lamb is its light.
And the nations of those who are saved
shall walk in its light...
There shall be no night there:
they need no lamp nor light of the sun,
for the Lord God gives them light.
And they shall reign forever and ever."
~ Revelation 21:23-24, 22:5

Hallelujah!

Thank You, Jesus, for being willing to come and be our Light, for being our "promised mercy" when we could not help ourselves. We can never thank You enough or praise You enough! Help us to welcome Your Light today as freely as You have given it.

Merry Christmas!

12.23.2017

Jesus, Our Light - Day 11


Let your light so shine


One of the hardest things for our human nature is to let the Light shine in our darkness. Those deep inner places we don't want God to mess with. Weakness, fear, bondage, things we loathe and things we like and don't want to give up. Yet to enjoy all the promised goodness and freedom of God's love, we have let it be on His terms.

"For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.
Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in
all goodness, righteousness, and truth)...
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness,
but rather expose them...
But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light,
for whatever makes manifest is light.
Therefore He says: 'Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead,
and Christ will give you light.'"
~ Ephesians 5:8-14

 The great gift of the Incarnation is that in accepting Christ's light, we are changed! Daily set free from the damaging works of darkness. There's nothing in the way now between us and God--unless we want it that way. 

My prayer today is that we all will have a fresh revelation this Christmas of the incredible work He came to do for us. We are Light-bearers in this very dark world, and every word or deed is an opportunity to dispel darkness.

"You are the light of the world.
A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden,
nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand,
and it gives light to all who are in the house.
Let your light so shine before men,
that they may see your good works
and glorify your Father in Heaven."
~ Matthew 5:14-16

Let the Light shine!

12.22.2017

Jesus, Our Light - Day 10



Marvelous light!


Paul the apostle had a startling encounter one day with the Light. In prison for preaching the gospel, he recounts the amazing story to the king, hoping to persuade him to see his need for Jesus.

On his way to arrest Jewish Christians in Damascus for heresy, Paul reports, "At midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me" (Acts 26:13). He falls to the ground, blinded, and hears Jesus Himself speaking to him, charging him with the mission to preach salvation to the Gentiles:

"...to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light,
and from the power of Satan to God,
that they may receive forgiveness of sins and
an inheritance among those who are
sanctified by faith in Me."
~ Acts 26:18

Here's that wonderful symbolism again--Paul, who thought he knew the light (righteous in his own self-righteousness)--is plunged into blinding darkness that he might have his spiritual eyes opened to the Truth. He receives his sight back three days later--a changed man, with God's Light in his heart, the revelation that Jesus died to give him God's own righteousness.

How fantastic that God seeks to reveal Himself to us personally, wanting so much for us to 'see' His heart, His invitation, the complete deliverance from darkness that He's provided through Jesus. I love these words in I Peter 2:9-10:

"But you are a chosen generation,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
His own special people,
that you may proclaim the praises of Him
who called you out of darkness
into His marvelous light;
who once were not a people
but are now a people of God,
who had not obtained mercy
but now have obtained mercy."

Marvelous light.  What an invitation!  

12.21.2017

Jesus, Our Light - Day 9

The Light of the world

Just a few days ago, a Jewish festival was celebrated called Hanukah, or the Festival of Lights. This story is from the extra-Biblical Book of Maccabees in the Apocrypha. Though an entirely Jewish holiday, we see some wonderful symbolism in it that speaks of Jesus, our Light.

In the years before 165 B.C., the Jewish nation had been under the rule of the Greeks. A pagan king named Antiochus Ephiphanes had defiled the Temple and forced the Jews to abandon their faith. But a brave group of young men under the leadership of Judah Maccabee revolted and successfully overthrew the pagan rule. Judah headed up the work of cleansing the Temple and rededicating it in 165 B.C.

But when they restored the temple service, they found they only had enough holy oil to burn for one day, the rest of it having been defiled by the Greek invaders. This oil was a symbol of the eternal Presence of God, the Light of the World, and had been commanded by Him to never go out (Exodus 27:20-21). It would take a week to prepare and consecrate more oil. By faith they went ahead and lit the flame, and God miraculously kept it burning for eight days until more oil was prepared. Thus, the miracle of Hanukkah, which the Jews have celebrated ever since.  It's interesting to note that Jesus Himself was present in the Temple on this day; the account is found in John 10:22-23.

The beautiful picture above is the menorah, the lampstand in the Tabernacle where the holy oil was burned. It was made of pure gold and was the only light in the holy place. What a picture of the promised Messiah!  Matthew speaks of Jesus as that fulfillment, referring to the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14:

"'Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son,
and they shall call His name Immanuel', which is translated,
'God with us'."
~ Matthew 1:23

Hear Jesus' words again about Himself:

"Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you;
he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going.
While you have the light, believe in the light,
that you may become sons of light...
I have come as a light into the world,
that whoever believes in Me
should not abide in darkness."
~ John 12:35-36, 46

Jesus is the Light of the World!

12.20.2017

Jesus, Our Light - Day 8


Open our eyes, Lord


We have seen what the prophets said about the Light that was to come, and we've seen what Jesus' followers had to say. Later, Jesus Himself boldly declared that He was the Light. He not only revealed what darkness looked like in the human heart, but showed the power of His Light to transform it.

In the familiar story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8), we see Jesus' forgiveness and mercy to a sinner. This was played out against the iron-clad, law-enforcing Pharisees who would stone her on the spot. But after Jesus granted her forgiveness, He turned and spoke to the Pharisees:

"I am the light of the world.
He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness,
but have the light of life."
~ John 8:12

An interesting wrap-up to that drama. Implication? Their merciless self-righteousness actually came from darkness. Jesus was showing the heart of the Father--His deep desire to bring His loved ones back to Life. Mercy, grace, second chances. The path back is Jesus.

He says it again in John chapter 9, where we see Him healing a man born blind--another beautiful picture of God's illumination of human darkness and misery. This poor man had literally only ever known 'darkness' and was gloriously healed. Jesus explains to His disciples:

"I must work the works of Him who sent me ...
As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
(John 9:5)

One small detail, though--Jesus had healed on the Sabbath.  An unforgivable offense in the eyes of the Pharisees. Instead of glorifying God for His mercy to the blind man, they create a furor trying to trick the healed man into condemning Jesus. Their unbelief and hard hearts made them blind to God's mercy, the "peace, goodwill toward men" sung by the angels the night Jesus was born.

The Father's mercy to us is Jesus. Thank You for opening our eyes, dear Lord, and for setting us free to walk in Your Light!

12.19.2017

Jesus, Our Light - Day 7


The perfect Christmas present


I remember as a child pondering once on the curious circumstance of 'waking up' born into the world, not having had any say about when or where I would live, which family I would belong to, etc. It struck me how unbelievably fortunate we were to have discovered that our Maker was benevolent, that the universe ran by His love, that we didn't find ourselves the victims of some cruel experiment of a malevolent god.

Then, when I discovered that this terrible thing called 'the fall' and sin had happened to us, and that the good God had already taken care of it by the time I arrived on the scene through Jesus--well, I knew I wanted to belong to Him. If it took that kind of a price to fix me and the world, I could never honor Him enough, thank Him enough. By His grace, He revealed Himself to me and gave me new life in Christ.

The apostle John seems eager to communicate to his readers in his New Testament writings this whole idea of Jesus=Light=Life. In his gospel, he starts right out in the first chapter:

"In Him was life, and the life was the light of men,
and the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it...
This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light,
that all through him might believe."
~ John 1:4-5, 7

Again, in his first letter, he starts right out:

"This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you,
that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all."
~ I John 1:5

"Darkness" here in the Greek is the word scotia, which means gloom, evil, sin, night, moral depravity.  It also has the implication of everything that came to us from the fall of man--enmity with God, our sinful nature, and every kind of demonic work in mankind.  All the trouble in our lives is some manifestation of the curse of darkness at work in the world.

But…
"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above,
and comes down from the Father of lights,
with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning."
~ James 1:17

That Christmas baby was the Father's good and perfect gift to us. Deliverance out of darkness, perfect Light, and eternal Life.

Thank You, Father!  Thank You, Jesus!