Advent 2022: Christmas Light

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”  Isaiah 9:2

My granddaughter loves Christmas lights. Anytime we drive at night, even in the middle of summer, she is on the lookout for them. We tell her that the Christmas lights are not out yet but she always says, “Maybe we’ll see some.” I love that Joy is always searching for light in the darkness.

When I was a kid we visited a park with beautiful caverns. In one deep, dark cave the park guide turned out all the artificial lights and the room was plunged into total darkness.  For a moment I was overcome by a sense of despair and fear.  In that pitch-blackness, I lost all orientation. I had no idea where the exit was, or where anyone else was.  If my friend had not grabbed my hand, I would have thought I was completely alone – that I had been abandoned.  Then the guide lit one small match.  All eyes were drawn to the light. With that single flickering flame, the darkness was overcome. Darkness is nothing more than the absence of light – but where there is even the smallest light, darkness has lost its power.

Adam and Eve plunged this world into sin and we are disoriented in spiritual darkness.  It is the kind of darkness that makes you feel completely alone and abandoned. Oh, the world offers a distorted light that is all glitz and glitter and flash. But it’s not the kind of light that helps you find your way.  Yet we are not to despair. God had a plan from before the creation of the world – before He called forth the light (Gen 1:3). He sent His One and Only Son to be “the Light of the world” (John 8:12).  His light overcame sin and evil and death. His light has the power to overcome the darkness and despair of living in this sin-sick, evil world with all its struggles and heartaches, and pain. He is “the true light that gives light to every man” (John 1:9).

Paul wrote, “God, who said ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the knowledge of the Glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).  This Advent season, as you enjoy the lights of Christmas, let the light of the Christ Child come in and dispel the darkness.  Beloved, come live in the Light of Jesus Christ.

The Display of His Splendor

I couldn’t understand why I was in such a difficult trial. I had committed no grave sin that warranted discipline. I was being obedient to what the Lord had called me to do. And unlike so many other seasons of suffering, I hadn’t caused this one. “What is up with this God? What am I missing?” Then, as He loves to do, the Spirit took me to the Word for a word.

I was in the gospel of John. Jesus and His disciples encountered a man who had been blind from birth. The disciples, like me, looked for someone to blame. “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (9:2). Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (v. 3). Then the Lord healed the man. His eyes were opened and he could see.

When you read on in this account, the man’s healing drew a lot of attention. Many questioned the validity of the healing and the religious leaders pressed him for answers. They foolishly claimed that the healer was a sinner. The man proclaimed, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know.  One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see” (v. 25).

And that’s the point. People were talking about this miracle and about Jesus. The work of God was displayed in his life. From this account, I realized that I was not being punished or disciplined. I was being set up to display the glory of Christ Jesus, my Lord and Savior. And isn’t that the point of our lives – to be “A planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor” (Is 61:3)? When I was younger my Mom always warned me about my behavior because “We don’t want people to talk.” Well, I’m sorry Mom, but you’re wrong about this one. We want people to talk. We want them to ask questions. We want His name repeated all over town because of what He has done in our lives. “Did you see what God did? She had the worst reputation in town and now she shares Jesus with other women on the streets.” Or “He was so sick, no one thought he would survive that, but look at him now – so healthy and strong and praising God.” Or my own testimony: “She was such a negative, bitter, unhappy person and now she overflows with Joy!” I don’t know your story or your particular struggles but I know the Author of it, and I know that He is writing His name all over your life. You, Beloved, are the story of God.

When Life is Meaningless

“What is the meaning of life?” I asked the man sitting across the table. I was interviewing him for an assignment in my apologetics course in college. My interviewee shrugged and said, “I don’t think life has meaning. You are born an accident and you do the best you can to not screw anything up before you die.” “That’s pretty sad,” I thought to myself. But his answer made sense because he was an atheist. His whole focus was on the span of time between his date of birth and his date of death. It was all about him. He reminded me of someone in the Bible – King Solomon.

Solomon was the son of King David. The Lord granted him extraordinary wisdom to rule the nation well. His great wisdom made him hungry for knowledge, which is not a bad thing, except he decided to “test [himself] with pleasure to find out what is good” (Ecc 2:1).  He said, “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure” (v. 10). And his conclusion? Not as good as we might think. Why? Because everything was all about and for himself.

He “built houses, made gardens, bought men and women to be slaves, owned huge flocks and herds, amassed riches, had hosts of entertainment, and a thousand women to feed his sexual appetite. All of this was “for myself (v. 4-8).” He also gained a pretty big ego saying, I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me” (v. 9). Yet, when he “surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless” (v. 11).

When life is all about self, life is meaningless. That’s why my friend had such a sad outlook. But when our lives are about the glory of God, we find real meaning and purpose and passion. A life lived for self is wasted. A life lived for God is full and rich. That was what Solomon realized when he said, “Here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecc 12:13). It was the wisest thing he ever said.

In the age of “selfies” is it any wonder that life feels so meaningless for so many? How about you, Beloved? Is life all about the unholy trinity: me, myself, and I? Maybe it’s time to change your focus.  

Have Faith

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What does it mean to “have faith?” And in what is our faith to be placed? In a culture with a thousand different philosophies, how can we know what to believe?  For the Christian, faith is what we believe about God and about what He has said through His Word, His Son, and His Spirit.  God spoke two distinct things about Jesus: that Jesus is His Son (Matthew 3:17), and that God has given us eternal life through Him (1 John 5:11).  Faith that honors and pleases God holds those two professions as truth. True faith stakes everything on them.

When I say I have faith in God, I am not making a statement about my assent to the truths of Christianity; I am making a statement about the truthfulness of what God has said about Jesus Christ.  I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who came to earth, lived a perfect life, died bearing my sins, was buried, and rose to life.  When I say that I believe in Jesus, I am putting all my hope and confidence in God’s power to save me as He has promised.  That is why “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).  I cannot see Jesus with my own eyes, nor have I ever seen heaven.  But I believe that He is the risen Lord and that His sacrifice is sufficient to save me and give me eternal life.

If you believe in Jesus Christ, you are blessed in every way; for this life and life eternal.  You are blessed because you stand on the confidence of God’s testimony, not on the traditions of men.  You are blessed because “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:10). But for us who believe, “we will see the glory of God” (John 11:40).  Our faith will be made sight and our hope in Christ will be confirmed.  In the chronicles of heaven, our names will be recorded among the great saints of human history, and we will be commended with those who pleased God by their faith.  Oh, what a blessing it is to believe!

Advent 2015 – Day 21 – Glorious Joy!

 adventcandlesweek3“Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even thought you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8)

Faith and joy are links in a golden chain that binds us to Jesus.  Because we believe, we have joy.  Because we have joy, we believe.   Peter tells us that our belief is rewarded with “an inexpressible and glorious joy.”  That means we have a joy that cannot be described with mere human words.  But that doesn’t mean that we don’t express it.  It is evident in our words and attitudes, and especially in our interactions with others.  It is joy spoken without words.  But it gets even better . . .

Peter also describes it as a “glorious joy.”  The Greek word for glory is doxa, and it describes the awesome light that radiates from God’s presence.  The word joy comes from the root word chara which speaks of greeting someone with delight.   Now, go with me to one of the Messianic verses from the Old Testament: Isaiah 9:2 “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Jesus is “the true light that gives light to every man” (John 1:9).  His is a light that darkness cannot overcome (v. 5).  Oh, this is so incredible!  Because of the faith we have in Jesus, we now bring the light—the glorious light—of Christ into this dark world!  We greet the world with joy and shine the light of the glory of the Son of God that cannot be overcome!  You and I are ambassadors of light and joy!

And all we have to do is believe.