Choosing light

In John 12:46 (NIV), Jesus says:

I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

Jesus often used the contrast between light and darkness to demonstrate the difference between choosing to follow Him or self. In reading this passage this morning, though, one word stood out to me: should.

Here’s the same verse in the Message version of the Bible.

I am Light that has come into the world so that all who believe in me won’t have to stay any longer in the dark.

Instead of should, we see won’t have to. My takeaway is that, even if we’ve made the choice to accept salvation through Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins, our disobedience can leave us in the dark.

The alternative to this self-worshiping darkness is Jesus-choosing light. The “ing” is very important. We must daily “ing”. Keep choosing light!

 

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Reflecting pool

imageIsaiah gives us simultaneous pictures of the parallel journeys of the Israelites and us. Yes, God’s chosen people and his adopted children, separated by thousands of years. The picture pair is a reflecting pool with generations between the two images.

Here’s the setting for Isaiah: the Israelites have turned their backs on God after he delivered them from slavery, they have put their trust in Egypt for their protection, they have worshiped other gods.

God is not happy.

Here’s our setting: we chase after money, possessions, and relationships for our satisfaction and security, we focus on instant gratification rather than the long term effects of our actions, we ignore or reject salvation available only through Jesus.

God is not happy.

But… God loves his children. He paved the road back to him through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Read Isaiah 35 and see how it speaks to both the Israelites in that time and us today. Isaiah is talking about both Israel’s return from exile and the coming of Jesus (as well as the miracles he will perform) hundreds of years later. Amazing!

 5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
6 Then will the lame leap like a deer,
and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert.
7 The burning sand will become a pool,
the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.

8 And a highway will be there;
it will be called the Way of Holiness;
it will be for those who walk on that Way.
The unclean will not journey on it;
wicked fools will not go about on it.
9 No lion will be there,
nor any ravenous beast;
they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there,
10 and those the Lord has rescued will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

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We built this city

imageStarship (née Jefferson Starship née Jefferson Airplane) recorded the song “We built this city” in 1985. It’s a bit controversial because a band with a history of musical political activism released a song that was received as quintessential “pop rock”. The original lyrics are actually an indictment of “the corporation” and its insensitivity to the artist and live music, but it was produced to be a radio hit. And it worked! Oh the irony.

The dissection of the lyrics on the Internet is mesmerizing. I found a blog post on the line “Marconi plays the mamba” with comments that span from 2007 to 2015! Amazing.

I am only interested in the title phrase from the chorus, however.

Don’t you remember
We built this city we built this city on rock an’ roll

This calls to mind Isaiah 22 from the Bible. It’s also about a city, defending that city, and remembering who built it.

10 You counted the buildings in Jerusalem
and tore down houses to strengthen the wall.
11 You built a reservoir between the two walls
for the water of the Old Pool,
but you did not look to the One who made it,
or have regard for the One who planned it long ago.

In this prophecy, Jerusalem is about to be attacked because the Israelites have turned their backs on God. They mistakenly believe that their hope is only in their own strength and efforts. They take steps to defend their city, but they do not seek God. They do not look first to the God who brought them out of Egypt, delivered them to Canaan, and established them in this city. Through Isaiah, God calls them back to him.

I have found myself in the same position, many times. Under attack. Relying on my own strength. Desperate for help.

Similar to Starship, have you ever gotten the feeling that life is changing too fast? That it’s slipping away from you or, even worse, accelerating away from you? Are you also being attacked and don’t know how to defend your “city”, your life? I have good news. God is calling you to return to him as well. He offers you a safe refuge.

God built his eternal city on the shoulders of Jesus Christ. Jesus is God made man. He was born from a virgin, lived a life without sin, died in our place to pay our sin debt, and rose again. He is the risen Christ and your belief in him is the key to new life, the eternal city. Check out John 3:16.

If you’ve never accepted Jesus as your savior, do it now. He offers you a city built on a foundation that is much more solid than rock and roll, even the 80s version.

Father, I know that I have broken your laws and my sins have separated me from you. I am truly sorry and now I want to turn away from my past sinful life toward you. Please forgive me and help me avoid sinning again. I believe that your son, Jesus Christ, died for my sins, was resurrected from the dead, is alive, and hears my prayer. I invite Jesus to become the Lord of my life, to rule and reign in my heart from this day forward. Please send your Holy Spirit to help me obey You and to do Your will for the rest of my life. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

 

 

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How to prepare for disaster

img_0525In Isaiah 22, God warns Jerusalem that danger is on the way if they do not turn back to him and away from themselves. (I can certainly relate. When things are going well, I tend to rely on my own strength and lose my gratitude for God’s care.)

8-11 You assessed your defenses that Day, inspected your arsenal of weapons in the Forest Armory. You found the weak places in the city walls that needed repair. You secured the water supply at the Lower Pool. You took an inventory of the houses in Jerusalem and tore down some to get bricks to fortify the city wall. You built a large cistern to ensure plenty of water.

You looked and looked and looked, but you never looked to him who gave you this city, never once consulted the One who has long had plans for this city.

Israel’s response to an impending enemy attack was to make sure they had their own resources to withstand it. God’s desire was that they seek him instead.

This is what God desires from you as well. Pursue God today, whether you are anxious or celebratory or defeated. When God is first, victory is yours.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)

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Midnight train

img_0519Have you ever been loved?

I have. I am. Undeservedly. Amazingly. Unbelievably.

I was riding in the car with my wife and daughter. My 16 year old daughter was the DJ from her phone. She played “Midnight train to Georgia” by Gladys Knight & the Pips.

They were both singing. My wife is famous for her accompanying hand motions. I was struck by the end of the song.

He’s leaving
(leaving)
On that midnight train to Georgia
(leaving on a midnight train)
Oh yeah
Oh y’all
Said he’s going back to find
(he’s going back to find)
A simpler place and time
(and when he takes that ride)
Yes he is
(guess who’s gonna be right by his side)
I’ll be with him
(I know you will)
On that midnight train to Georgia
(leaving on a midnight train to Georgia)
(whoo whoo)
I’d rather live in his world
(live in his world)
Than live without him in mine

This is a song of a man’s failure and then his love’s commitment to him. Here’s what this response enables. It lets the man be a man. Take a risk. Be humbled and still be valued.

It is priceless and my wife loves me that way. Underserved, but fully appreciated.

That love has an author. It is God. And he loves you the same way.

You’ll never take your midnight train alone.

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He took her hand

imageIf you have been hurt or lost or rejected. If you have had a dream die, if you know pain and loss, I have a source of new hope for you.

18 While he was saying this, a synagogue leader came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.” 19 Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples.

23 When Jesus entered the synagogue leader’s house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes, 24 he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. 25 After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. 26 News of this spread through all that region. (Matthew 9:18-19 and 23-26)

The girl died too young. A tragedy has occurred. Let’s find personal hope in this dark situation.

  1. The girl had an advocate. This person invited Jesus into her loss. You too have someone on your side. Someone has faith to share.
  2. Jesus came when he was needed most. We have a God who is there when all is lost.
  3. There was a noisy crowd present who did not truly care for the girl. They were there to entertain themselves, not mourn. Jesus put them out. He will rescue you from harmful influences and false “friends”.
  4. He took her by the hand and she got up! Jesus will embrace you when times are desperate. Through his love, power, and grace, you will stand again. New life!

My prayer is that you turn to him now. He’s right there for you. Hold out your hand — your miracle awaits.

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Lost and hurting? Drop the k

imageLeprosy is an infectious skin disease that causes lesions and nerve damage of the skin, upper respiratory tract, and eyes. It is spread by skin to skin contact. Leprosy is a chronic condition that can last a lifetime without medical care. Over the past 20 years, more than 16 million leprosy patients have been treated.

In the time of Jesus, no cure was available. Lepers were forced to live outside the city and away from possible contact with others. They were separated and rejected. Lepers were considered untouchable.

Given this backdrop, Matthew 8 tells an amazing story that demonstrates Jesus’ boundless love and compassion for you.

When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. 2 A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

3 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.

Jesus touched him (!) to heal him. A man with a skin disease came to him asking to be made clean, to be restored. Jesus was not only willing, but he did so by touching the untouchable.

Let’s drop the k and make this personal.

You and I have a sin disease. It separates us from God. There is a cure, though. All we need to do is approach Jesus and ask for his healing touch. Because he paid our sin penalty himself, he is able to forgive it. There is nothing in your past that makes you untouchable to Jesus. Simply believe and you will be restored.

Pray this: Jesus, I have a sin disease. I ask for your healing touch. I believe that you are the son of God, that you died for my sins, and that you were raised to life again. I accept you today as my Lord and Savior. Amen.

 

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