The Light Shines in the Darkness

This is a truly pertinent article from the January 2018 issue of Decision Magazine.

The Light Shines in the Darkness

By 

The darkness is spreading—rapidly.

Every day, it seems like yet another menacing cloud has spread its dark shadow across the land.

The relentless reporting of widespread sexual harassment has dominated the news cycle for months. Television hosts, congressmen, Hollywood elites, journalists and businessmen have all confessed to grievous acts of sexual harassment. The repercussions have been enormous, as women across the country have accused employers and co-workers of inappropriate behavior.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Online pornography use is at an all-time high. Gay and transgender characters are now a common sight on television, even in programs for small children. Atheists are hell-bent on eradicating any mention of God in town halls, schools and sporting events. Drug addiction, especially to new opioid painkillers, is an epidemic in many parts of the country, particularly in rural areas with high joblessness.

Mass shootings are no longer a rare occurrence, and they happen in once-sacred places like churches and historically safe spaces like schools and public venues. The weapons of terrorists are no longer just homemade bombs but also cars and trucks, which can run down citizens in broad daylight on busy city thoroughfares.

Abroad, the darkness is just as widespread.

Christians across the Middle East suffer intense persecution from Islamic terrorists and oppressive governments. In so many parts of the world, it’s never been a more dangerous time to be a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Read the rest here.

Waiting for our Savior Jesus Christ

But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the LORD;
I will wait for the God of my salvation.
My God will hear me.
—Micah 7:7

What a wonderful example the prophet Micah is to us! As one of the minor prophets, the first few chapters of his short Old Testament book are messages of God’s judgment on Samaria and Jerusalem. But toward the end of this book, we see clear evidence of Micah’s faith and confidence that God would send a Savior.

We humans think we’ve got all the answers. And even when we don’t, we have the technology to find those answers in an instant by searching the internet for whatever may be baffling or confusing to us.

Because of the huge advancements in technology over the past few years, many people today believe that the Old Testament is irrelevant in this modern world. However, the Old Testament is filled with verses which talk about a Savior or foretell His coming. Here are only a few:

  • You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds, O God our savior. You are the hope of everyone on earth, even those who sail on distant seas.
    —Psalm 65:5
  • It will become a sign and a witness to the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt; for they will cry to the LORD because of oppressors, and He will send them a Savior and a Champion, and He will deliver them. —Isaiah 19:20
  • Yet I have been the LORD your God since the land of Egypt; and you were not to know any god except Me, for there is no savior besides Me. —Hosea 13:4

 Read the longing in these and many other verses. These men yearned for the Savior of the world to come soon, and exhibited great faith that it would happen. They obviously loved God without restraint and absolutely believed that God would send a Savior, someone who would rescue them from themselves and their sins and provide a way for them to live with and worship God forever.

So many people say they believe in God but when it comes to eternal issues, they are floundering in a huge sea of doubt and frustration. It is understandably difficult to believe in a being we cannot see. On top of that uncertainty, we are asked to trust that believing in Jesus Christ as our Savior is the only way to heaven.

I love what J. Vernon McGee has to say about this:

You may think you have your way of salvation, but God is the only Savior, and He is the only one who can offer you a plan of salvation.

God’s plan for our salvation was always in the works but was truly fulfilled with the birth of Jesus Christ, His Son. Jesus was born a human and lived an earthly life so that He could experience and relate to every single thing we go through.

The birth of Jesus Christ paved the way for His death on the cross, where He took our sins upon Himself and died on our behalf. That death paved the way for Him to be resurrected from the dead on the third day, proving that death and sin have no more eternal hold on us. All this to show how much God loves us and longs for us to live in heaven with Him forever.

This is where faith and trust come into the picture. We must believe that our only chance for eternal redemption comes from Jesus Christ and has nothing to do with ourselves or what we do or don’t do:

Jesus said to him,
“I am the way
and the truth, and the life;
no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

—John 14:6

Sadly, though, too many of us seem unable to take that giant leap of faith and trust:

He was in the world,
and the world was made through Him,
and the world did not know Him.
He came to His own,
and those who were His own did not receive Him.

But as many as received Him,
to them He gave the right to become children of God,
even to those who believe in His name, who were born,
not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man,
but of God.
—John 1:10-13

Beloved, Christmas is definitely a time of celebration. If you take away all the glitter, packages, decorations, baked goodies and music, we still have the greatest thing for which to be thankful. We celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the One whom God sent to free us from the bondage of sin.

So if all you have to celebrate Christmas with is that certain knowledge of the saving grace of Jesus Christ, then you have it all and more!

Let’s try to remember that Christmas is more about the Reason and less about the Season.

A very Merry and Blessed Christmas to all of you!

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us,
and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father,
full of grace and truth.
John testified about Him and cried out, saying,
“This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me
has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’
For of His fullness we have all received,
and grace upon grace.”
—John 1:14-16

 … for today in the city of David
there has been born for you a Savior,
who is Christ the Lord.
—Luke 2:11

Light Has Dawned: Reflections at Christmastime on the Light of Jesus

Sharing today from the Eternal Perspective Ministries blog.

Light Has Dawned:
Reflections at Christmastime
on the Light of Jesus

One day I got a late start on a bike ride and went too far. By the time I turned around, I found myself miles from home on a trail with absolutely no light. At times I could not see the trail’s edge, and I had no clue what was on either side.

I was in the dark. Alone. Or at least I thought so, until I felt a presence and realized I’d just passed someone within inches. I could easily have run into him or her. I don’t remember being afraid of the dark until that night. I had no light and couldn’t flip a switch or call someone to solve my problem. When I finally made it to the dim lights of civilization, I was flooded with relief…and sheer happiness!

The people Jesus spoke to lived without streetlights. If they didn’t have a lamp and a means to light it, they groped in darkness, vulnerable to assailants. They understood what it meant when Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Jesus didn’t say, “I’ll point you to the light” or “I’ll give you the light.” He said, “I am the light.” The only Light.

Read the rest here.

The Light of the World

The Light of the World

Then Jesus cried out, “When a man believes in me,
he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me.
When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me.
I have come into the world as a light,
so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
John 12:44-46

The western portion of the U.S. was the scene of many massive wildfires this summer, and as I write this there is still some wildfire activity in certain areas. Hundreds of thousands of acres of land, buildings and personal property were wiped out and many firefighters exhausted themselves in fighting these fires. Many discussions and debates went on about the merits of tree thinning to remove trees and vegetation that were too dense or dead. In other words, these wildfires could well have been averted or at the very least, diminished in size. Some people might call this preventive maintenance. I like to this of it as a risk management plan.

So it is with the state of our souls. God offers us the free gift of His salvation through the death of Jesus Christ, His Son. Jesus willingly took on the burden of our sins so that we would not have to suffer for eternity. In my humble opinion, this free gift of salvation can also be considered as a risk management plan for God’s people.

I’m sure you’ve seen the signs displayed at professional sports games that read John 3:16. You may have asked yourself, what does that mean? These people are joyfully telling the world that there is a way for us to spend eternity in heaven! According to John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Verses 17-18 go on to explain:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but to save the world through him.

Whoever believes in him is not condemned,
but whoever does not believe stands condemned already
because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
 

I have highlighted the words believe and not believe in the previous verses and in the ones in the opening of this article. To “believe” means more than agreeing that Jesus is God; it means trusting that Jesus Christ alone can save us from paying the price for our sins. Believing is to agree that what He says is trustworthy and that relying on Him gives us the power to change.

If you have never trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, let the promises in these verses be yours. All you have to do is pray these verses to Jesus, believing them to be true. He’ll take care of the rest.

You can have everlasting life in heaven if you believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord!

I used to think at times that when I finally come face-to-face with God, I would have a list of questions to ask Him. However, I’ve come to realize that when I go home to be with Jesus, I won’t care about any of the “stuff” I have experienced here on earth. None of it will matter any longer because of the utter joy I will have in His presence.

Maybe if we thin out the debris and clutter in our lives, we’ll make more room for God to reside with us and within us. The more we rely on Him to guide our lives, the more we’ll be able to know His will for us. That’s when we might stop wondering what eternity holds for us and start believing in the only One who matters.

Now that’s a risk management plan I can live with forever!


To find out more about how to ask Jesus to be the Savior and Lord of your life, please go here to read more about it.

You are also welcome to email me at faithlhj777 at gmail dot com with any questions you might have.

#HOPE for Every Day – January 14, 2017

john1-4-5_is51-5-amp

Today’s blog post also serves as today’s dose of HOPE. It contains two Scripture passages that to me are related because our ultimate HOPE is in Jesus our LIGHT.

John 1:4-5, NASB:
In Him was life, and the life was the LIGHT of men. 
The LIGHT shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

…….Isaiah 51:3-5, NLT:
The Lord will comfort Israel again

and have pity on her ruins.
Her desert will blossom like Eden,
her barren wilderness like the garden of the Lord.
Joy and gladness will be found there.
Songs of thanksgiving will fill the air.

“Listen to me, my people.
Hear me, Israel,
for my law will be proclaimed,
and my justice will become a LIGHT to the nations.

My mercy and justice are coming soon.
My salvation is on the way.
My strong arm will bring justice to the nations.
All distant lands will look to me
and wait in HOPE for my powerful arm.

An Impossibility

john1-14-amp

An Impossibility

by Joni Eareckson Tada


“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

—John 1:14 (NKJV)

We talk a lot about the Incarnation as Christmas draws near. Incarnation is a Latin word that means “taking flesh.” God “took flesh” and became the human Jesus. We say that so glibly. But the idea is so impossible.

God became flesh? It’s like accepting that a battleship can fit into a bathtub. A skyscraper can fit into a dollhouse. A field of wheat can fit into a cereal box. More than that, it’s like making blue paint out of blue sky. We can’t fathom such things. In the same way, we can’t imagine the God of the universe becoming a baby.

It’s so odd. After all, the whole point was that God wanted to rescue us. But a baby can’t rescue anyone; babies need rescuing themselves. Maybe because God couldn’t make Himself greater to impress us, He made Himself smaller to attract us.

And the Christmas story is attractive. In all history there is nothing like it. If you stroll through cities around the world, you will see imposing monuments to outstanding men and women. But have you ever seen a statute of a famous person as an infant? You never see George Washington portrayed in a stroller. It would be silly.

But it’s not silly to honor the Lord of the universe as a baby, because this child signifies the Incarnation. That God took on flesh is amazing and incredible, like an oil well fitting into an oilcan, or a mountain squeezing into a molehill. God became flesh-Wow!

To help you think about what an amazing act the Incarnation is, make a list of all the qualities Jesus gave up or limited to become a baby. For example, He who is the Light of the World chose to dwell in a dark womb for nine months. You’ll be amazed at just what Jesus’ choice meant for Him — and for you.

Emmanuel, God with us, words seem impossibly small and unwieldy to try to express the immensity of Your love for me, and the gratitude I feel. Help me to live today in a way that would honor the sacrifices You have made for me.


Taken from More Precious Than Silver.  Copyright © 1998 by Joni Eareckson Tada.  Published in Print by  Zondervan, Grand Rapids.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version.

Lamplighters

 Photo credit: The Victorianist

Photo credit: The Victorianist

Lamplighters

By Patricia Knight

Before the innovation of electricity, the local lamplighter was a familiar figure at dusk and dawn. It was his responsibility to illumine and extinguish city lights. Initially, oil or candles were used, eventually progressing to gas lights. Whatever the type of lamp, the citizens gained a modicum of security at night from the predictable illumination of their walkways.

Every night at dusk the lamplighter walked or rode between individual lamp posts spaced throughout city streets. Some lamplighters carried a ladder, while others gained the appropriate height to reach tall lamp posts from the back of a horse. Still others carried long poles with a source of combustion at the tip, providing the length necessary to reach the lamp post. A sole lamplighter extended his staff to ignite each secluded, dark lamp stem with a small flame. Light flooded the space behind the lamplighter as he continued forward to punctuate darkness along his route.

The original source of light penetrating darkness occurred at the creation of the world when God commanded, “ ‘And, let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day,’ and the darkness he called ‘night.’ And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day” (Genesis 1:3-5).

Exclusively by His power, God led the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt. He promised His children He would guide them on their journey to the Promised Land. “You {God} go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night” (Numbers 14:14). Just as God’s pillars of cloud and fire consistently led the Israelites long ago, Jesus provides His guiding light in our world today. As Jesus reflects His light to us, we absorb it and disseminate love to others. Jesus said, “ ‘You are the light of the world. Let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your father in heaven’” (Matthew 5:14a,16). Jesus fulfilled His mission as the Light of the World when He walked this earth. Now that He has returned to heaven, Jesus commands His followers to continue His light-bearing work.

Phil2-15--AMP

We are admonished to “Shine like stars in the universe” (Philippians 2:15b).When we gaze at millions of stars piercing the night sky with dazzling points of light, we are reminded that God views Christians as His own beacons of light piercing a dark world. It is our purpose to bring glory to God by expanding His outreach of light to others.

In the summertime, twittering fireflies shower the night sky with thousands of sparkling lights. In a similar way, Christians radiate Christ’s light in a dark world. If each of us were to introduce one flicker of sovereign light, soon individual flashes would be so numerous, they would coalesce to form a massive glow of love. Kind words, intercessory prayers, or warm smiles convey encouragement, distributing the light of Jesus into all areas.

In the Old Testament, light was symbolic of life and blessing; darkness represented evil and death.  Darkness is projected in the expression of a grumpy, foreboding person, whereas light shines through those who are positive and encouraging.

By New Testament times there was no further need of a symbolic representation of God’s presence like the pillars of cloud or fire. Centuries later, God’s Son, the Light of the World, came to earth to shine His love, power, and grace on His followers. By sacrificially offering His unblemished life to redeem us from sin, Jesus transferred His light to those who believe in Him.

As Jesus’ disciples in current times, God’s glory shines His infinite light through our lives. Like a magnet attracts metal, we are drawn to heavenly light. Those who trust in Jesus depend upon Him to illuminate lives and to light walkways. “Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105), without which we would only grope in darkness.

The old lamp lighter left a linear trail of visible light in his path, but we have the ability to perpetuate light in all directions from our hearts. We reflect love and grace from Jesus to those whose vision needs the supplemental light of guidance and mercy. Immersed in Jesus’ light, we are then prepared to minister Christlikeness to others.

Just as the sun supplies the physical light of our world, Jesus embodies spiritual light. “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:5b, 7). The moon has no illumination of its own, reflecting light from the sun.  So too, Christians have no inherent light source. Jesus’ light is reflected in His followers. We are feckless without a personal infusion from the Light of the World, enabling us access to His profuse energy, irrepressible light, and dynamic power.

Light symbolizes the glory and radiance, beauty and love, splendor and majesty of God the Father and God the Son. Light represents the absolute purity and holiness of God, who moves without casting a shadow. His characteristic is light; His light and glory are harmonious. Christ is the lamplighter of our souls. Once His light lavishes our hearts, we are filled to capacity with the inherited qualities of Jesus, spreading the goodness of spiritual light wherever we go. As we identify with Jesus, we appropriate His attributes of love, kindness, and humility.

“It started when God said, ’Light up the darkness!’ and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful” (2 Corinthians 4:6, The Msg). Through the love and enthusiasm we share, people we meet breathe in the exquisite fragrance of the Savior. Like a perfect flower blossom in form and fragrance, our spiritual transparency allows the Light of the World to shine through, illuminating the darkness of this world one small light beam at a time. Let us make heavenly light distribution our high priority.

“In Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, He brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on their way to salvation—an aroma redolent with life” (2 Corinthians 2:14-15a, The Msg.).