Light in a Time of Darkness

… Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 8:12 (NKJV)

This Scripture (above) from the Gospel of John comes a few chapters after Jesus said this:

Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.

John 3:19 (NKJV)

Even a quick scan of the news reveals many evil deeds being done in these dark days. Where is the light of Christ in all this? Jesus explains where this light needs to come from when He says, You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.” (Matthew 5:14-15 NKJV)

In this statement, the you He refers to includes each of His followers, from that day to this. You, is you and me.

Like me, you may feel inadequate to overcome so much darkness, but we need to remember that the darker it is, the greater the impact of even the smallest glimmer of light.

I remember driving through the lonely countryside one dark night and seeing a pinpoint of light in the distance. The source of that light was miles away, but it warmed my heart just to know it was there. And think of the stars, so many lightyears away and how brightly they shine on the darkest night.

Many of us remember happily singing the Sunday school song, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,” but since growing up we’ve forgotten its message. We’ve been hiding our Christianity for fear of standing out from the crowd, of not fitting in, or of being considered too religious, allowing darkness to reign, unchallenged.

Think what a difference even a few tiny lights gathered together can make. Light is a positive force, like heat. It radiates. Darkness, like cold, is simply the absence of that positive force. Therefore, darkness has no power of its own. Perhaps it is time to put your light on a lampstand and let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

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Insults, smears, and persecution

When reviewing an article from a few years ago on the debate about building a mosque at the 9-11 Ground Zero site, I noticed that the writer referred to those who opposed the mosque as Islamophobes, ignorant, bigots, racists, haters, and Christians. This made me wonder when the term Christian had become an insult.

That led me to consider the lives of the first Christians in the early church. It seems that “Christian” was originally a label of derision and eventually became a criminal charge punishable by death. 

We’ve all heard about the horrendous treatment of those first martyrs; how they were used as human torches to illuminate the emperor’s nighttime revels. While I can’t imagine our recent cultural shifts leading to anything so extreme, I have to wonder just where things are heading.

As Christians we are told to rejoice and be glad when we are persecuted in Christ’s name.

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

James 1:2-3

Most Christians in the Western world have never suffered real persecution. I certainly haven’t. There have been times I’ve felt annoyed at the way we are portrayed in the media as either wild-eyed fundamentalists or low-IQ buffoons. But annoyance isn’t persecution. I’ve been angry when churches were attacked or shuttered during this on-going pandemic, but that perceived injustice doesn’t compare to early church persecution, either.

It’s hard to imagine finding joy in any mistreatment, but when the mistreatment comes about because of our faith, that is our mission.

While I don’t advocate becoming an alarmist, and I trust God to see us through whatever lies ahead, I do think it behooves us all to gird ourselves with the fruits of the spirit in order to be prepared when the time comes…it could be soon.

Rejoice and be glad…there’s good times a-comin’ 

Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:12
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Are mothers really so special?

The writings of the Apostle Paul regarding women’s place in the church and home are often a point of contention, especially in these “liberated” times. The argument defending him is sometimes that his instructions were meant for a particular time and culture; a view that is often supported by what he wrote to the church in Galatia, emphasizing that all are equal in the body of Christ.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:28

That being said, there are still innate differences between the sexes which give each gender unique abilities and challenges, especially when it comes to raising children.

Even Paul, whom many consider a paradigm of misogyny, wrote in praise of the power of women when he commended his protégé Timothy’s mother and grandmother by name.

 I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.

2 Timothy 1:5

While not every mother is a positive influence on her children, the fact remains that a mother has a powerful role in shaping her children for good or ill, and those children shape the culture.

If you were blessed with a loving, nurturing Christian mother, you are fortunate. Especially in a world where the family is increasingly under-valued, such a mother is special, indeed. She deserves a day of recognition.

Happy Mother’s Day, to the mothers and the children lucky enough to be able to share this special day them.

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This too shall pass

You won’t find the familiar quotation, “This too shall pass,” in the Bible, not in those words, anyway, but the meaning is woven throughout Scriptures. It is an important truth to cling to in times of turmoil and despair.

Our good Creator God, who cannot lie, has promised us eternal life (Titus 1:2, John 3:15). We know that our physical bodies wear out and die, but the promise is for our spirits and immortal souls. The Scriptures tell us that all that is material is temporary and will pass away.

Those who use the things of the world should not become attached to them. For this world as we know it will soon pass away.

1 Corinthians 7:30-31 (NLT)

When we are frightened or suffering it is hard to dismiss what is happening in our all too real material world and take hold of the promise of eternal life. We may believe with all our hearts in the promises of God, but find ourselves overwhelmed by those things we can see and feel.

How are we to make our unseen, never completely understood eternal life strong enough to resist the challenges to our faith and courage?

As in many of the struggles of our spiritual life, the answer is to do all you can to learn about the reality of God by diving deeply into His Word.

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

1 Peter 1:13

Like a visit to the dentist, most of us can endure difficulties when we know they are only temporary. We get through the discomfort by casting our minds ahead to the time when the current experience is over and looking forward to the benefits we may see then.

Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

1 Timothy 6:12
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How delightful!

Delight yourself in the Lord

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.

Psalm 37:3-5 (NKJV)

In times of turmoil, our faith can be stretched to the limit. How hard it can be in those times to do good, let alone find delight in our circumstances.

Now, the definition of the word delight is a high degree of gratification or pleasure : joy : extreme satisfaction. How and why should we be highly gratified or extremely satisfied, let alone find pleasure and joy, when everything seems to be going wrong?

The Psalmist was inspired to give us the incentive that if we manage to trust in God’s goodness and delight ourselves in whatever circumstances the Lord chooses to allow, committing ourselves to doing His will, then He shall give us the desires of our hearts. Sounds like a good deal, doesn’t it?

I heard a message recently that suggested the promise, “He shall give you the desires of your heart,” actually means more than we usually think. Rather than promising to give us whatever we think we want like an overindulgent parent, this is God’s assurance that, if we trust Him and commit to finding our joy in Him, He will place within our hearts the desires we should have. He will give us the desires, not the objects of our desires.

How much more gratifying and satisfying could life be when we truly desire only those things which God wants us to have? The catch is, for that to happen, we must completely trust Him. To trust Him, we must know Him. To know Him, we must spend time in His Word. Only then will we find out just how delightful God, and our life with Him, can be.

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Sometimes I feel like a motherless child

Since the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic life has changed for most of us. We have experienced a lonelier, less connected life as we shy away from gatherings and fellowship. This has been especially hard on those whose social lives have revolved around the local church. We have felt abandoned and isolated. While grieving our loss many of us could relate to the words of that poignant spiritual, “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child.”

Since at least the times of St. Augustine, “Mother Church” has been a term to refer to the Christian Church as a mother in her functions of nourishing and protecting the believer.  No wonder so many of us of all ages are feeling like orphans. We miss the presence and nurturing influence of our mother church.

We hear a lot about influencers these days, but the first and most powerful influencer in most of our lives is our mother. No mere social media celebrity, she oversees the formation of our personalities and values. The same can be said of the church.

24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 10:24-25 (NKJV)

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Acts 2:42 (NKJV)

Especially in turbulent times like these, Christians need the influence of fellow believers in order to be stirred up to love and good works, to spiritual maturity, and Christlikeness.

Next month we will celebrate Mother’s Day in the USA. I pray that most of us will be able to mark that day in the bosom of our Christian family as we honor both our earthly mothers and the nurturing church fellowship that influences our daily lives.

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The Invisible Enemy

How long have we been striving to overcome an enemy we can’t see?

When we can’t see it, how do we even know it exists ?

I suppose we know because we have been told about it and we can believe what we were told because we have seen the effects in those who have fallen victim to this pernicious foe.

Early on in this struggle the powers that be recognized how vulnerable the church is to this pandemic and moved to swiftly shutter the sanctuaries and forbid us from gathering together for worship.

The invisible enemy I am referring to is not, as you may have suspected, a germ or a virus. The pandemic infecting and threatening the Body of Christ is apostasy, apathy, and worldliness.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)

Even more than we may fear the Covid-19 virus, our enemy dreads anyone being infected with the Gospel.

Isn’t it time for Christians to remove our muzzles and inoculate those around us with regular doses of truth?

The current pandemic, like all material things will surely pass. In even these troubled times, our best efforts, as the Body of Christ, should be expended on those things which are eternal.

37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:37-39 (NKJV)

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What is truth?

Pilate’s comment (John 18:38) to Jesus just before sentencing Him to death is especially appropriate today.

History is under attack these days as a mere social construct subject to political manipulation. However, there still exist physical artifacts and historically proven writings to which those seeking the truth of the past may refer. Until all the museums and libraries are destroyed, there will remain a few eminently provable historical facts.

One of these is the historically documented fact that a man from Nazareth, a carpenter named Jesus, existed, was first acclaimed as the Jewish messiah, and then was crucified on a hill outside Jerusalem approximately 2000 years ago. As columnist Erick Erickson lays out so succinctly in his Good Friday entry on, the proofs are there for anyone to see.  And yet, we often hear unbelievers refer to Jesus contemptuously as the Christians’ “made-up God” or “their imaginary friend.”

However, even those who refuse to accept Christ’s resurrection and divinity cannot deny the impact of His life on humanity.

Occasionally, Easter, when Christians celebrate Resurrection Sunday, falls on or near April 1. On those years we sometimes hear snarky comments of the day being a great April Fools joke on believers.

Having studied the Scriptures, especially those already supported by archeology, and experienced for myself the blessings of His sacrificial death, I feel confident saying to the mockers and scoffers, “The jokes on you.”

The fool says in his heart,
    “There is no God.”

Silhouettes of Three Crosses

 -Psalm 53 (NIV)
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Feeling helpless? Good.

When chaos, injustice, or tragedy abound, either in the wide world or in my own life, I feel helplessness which can lead to frustration. Frustration can lead to paralyzing depression and despair or to anger and rage. Neither reaction is a particularly healthy response to a situation that is beyond my control.

So how can feeling helpless be a good thing?

The answer became apparent to me this week when listening to a Lenten devotional from on the YouVersion Bible app. I was reminded of the many Biblical examples of God using the seemingly weak and helpless to achieve great things for His glory.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

God promises, over and over again to strengthen His people. But the caveat seems to be that we must first recognize the source of that strength.

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

2 Corinthians 12:9

We must recognize and admit our own weakness and move out of His way in order for God to move through us.

This is an appropriate reminder as we approach Holy Week. Imagine how helpless and frustrated Christ’s followers felt on Good Friday. They were weak with grief and fearful of the future, while all the time God was preparing the glorious Resurrection that would change everything. Soon these powerless, helpless men would become conduits of God’s mighty power as they stepped forth to be used to fulfill His plan.

Are you feeling helpless today? Good. Admit your weakness to God, set aside your pride and your desire for control, and prepare to be used in a might way.

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What’s so great about normal?

When the pandemic hit, our lives were disrupted in a major way. After a few months we began to ask when everything would get back to normal. Eventually, we began to hear references to a “new normal” that we would need to get used to.

Just what is normal, anyway? The dictionary tells us it is ordinary, typical, or routine. So basically, whatever we have become accustomed to is normal.

During this past year, many of us have, however reluctantly, become accustomed to this new normal.

One only has to look at history to realize that people are incredibly adaptable; we can get used to some pretty terrible ideas and situations. Ideas and practices considered decidedly abnormal less than a hundred years ago are now taken for granted as ordinary, typical, and normal.

From the beginning, God has called His people to remain outside normal society. In Old Testament times, child sacrifice to idols and temple prostitutes were routine. The Jews were called to separate themselves from such abhorrent practices. They were given rules and regulations intended to specifically identify themselves as different from the normal culture. While Jesus de-emphasized many of the physical symbols of this separation, He charged His followers with an even more challenging task, as the Apostle Paul expressed it:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2 (NIV)

Even Christ-followers feel the strong tug of conformity toward whatever our world sees as normal. It is especially hard to resist when it happens gradually. Perhaps the sudden upheaval of the recent pandemic was God’s way of waking His people up. If a Christian feels comfortable with what the world considers normal, it may be that he or she has taken their eyes off Jesus and veered onto the wrong path.

To get back on track, we mustn’t yearn back toward the old normal. We must strive forward to a new normal which honors God and conforms to His word.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

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