Monday, December 19, 2011

Thoughts on Christmas, #2

The Reason-of-Christmas stood before a disheartened woman at a well in Samaria (John 4) and said these words, “If only you knew the gift of God...”  I would love to go back in a time machine to view that scene; a snapshot just doesn’t do it justice.  I’d love to hear the soft, gentleness of Jesus’ voice as he spoke, see the look on his tender face, and observe the openness of his body language.  The words on a page seem so matter of fact.  Yet Jesus saw deeply into the well of this woman’s soul.  He knew her brokenness, her shame, her suffering, her sadness.  He recognized the wounds that had scarred her life; understood her search for satisfaction.  She was so very thirsty; and, Jesus, also knew, he possessed exactly what she needed.

“If only...”  How many times do you think she had uttered those words?  “If only I’d made better choices...”  “If only I’d not gone to...”  “If only I hadn’t picked up that first...”  “If only he’d been...”  How many of us have uttered those words?  “If only...” and life would be perfect.  Not really.  The woman at the well was a contradiction in beginning again.  Trying and failing, at least five times, in the hope of change; but, trying and remaining unsatisfied.  Those words had to have cut deeply as Jesus uttered them.  They were simply a reminder of what could never be...after all, “you can’t change a leopard’s spots (Jer.13:23).”  Have you ever related?  Have you ever told yourself that your situation is an impossibility – it will never change – you will never change? 

HOWEVER, the rest of the sentence tells a different story.  Jesus’ words address the possibility of change...  “If only you knew the gift of God...”  What was Jesus offering her?  John 7:37-39 expounds.  If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”  By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him...would receive (please keep in mind this is not an exhaustive list):

The gift of God - the fullness of the Holy Spirit - all of Jesus, and more, can dwell in me.  There is no hope of change apart from the Holy Spirit who abides inside of us.  Think about what His gift provides for the believer in Jesus:
  • He counsels (John 16:7) Greek this word is “parakletos,” meaning to comfort, encourage, exhort.  The Holy Spirit is our advocate, our intercessor, our advisor.
  • He convicts (John 16:8)...and as a result we avoid judgment, and receive righteousness.
  • He guides in all truth (John 16:13) we know with confidence that we receive perfect guidance, and what he speaks to us is always truth!
  • He sets us free (Romans 8:2) chains are gone; I’ve been set free...!
  • He gives us life and peace (Romans 8:6) in the “abundant life” that Jesus promised (John 10:10).
  • He gives us much needed power for victory over sin (Romans 8:11)... “the Spirit of the One who raised Christ Jesus from the dead dwells in me!”
  • He offers a spiritual gift, uniquely mine, in which I can serve effectively and glorify God (John 16:14, Romans 12, I Cor 14).

This is the true Gift of Christmas available to any who receive…all of us stuck in the impossible “if only” of life!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Thoughts on Christmas, #1

John 15:22 begins with these words by Jesus, “If I had not come…”  Have you ever thought about that?  Christmas is just around the corner.  The “season” has been in the air since Halloween was over.  Every year, we celebrate a holiday centered on the coming of the Christ child.  But, what if He had not come?  What would be different if there was, in fact, no Christmas?  Let me start a list…maybe you can complete it – this certainly can’t be exhaustive:

  1. There would be no New Testament, the Bible would end with Malachi.  Listen to how that book closes…”I will come and strike the land with a curse.”  Everything would end with a curse! 
  2. As a result of #1 on the list, there would be no hope.  In fact, where Malachi ends, God’s voice quits.  Between that verse and the first verse of Matthew, God went silent.
  3. So…God would be totally and completely through speaking to us…we would never have the opportunity to hear His voice.
  4. There would be no hope of a glorious resurrection.
  5. No victory over death and the grave.
  6. No victory over sin…
  7. We’d still be butchering animals on an altar of sacrifice.  Think how many animals would have to die…we certainly are a sinful lot!
  8. But then, it wouldn’t matter for us, because there would be no inclusion of Gentiles, so we would remain alienated, doomed to living in darkness.
  9. We would have no opportunity for a new identity.
  10. No deliverance.
  11. No heavenly home.
  12. There would be no “Joy to the World.”
  13. No Christmas lights…
  14. No Christmas music.
  15. No gifts.
  16. Oh…and, no churches.  We wouldn’t need places of worship, for there would be no one for us to worship.
  17. So, there would be no need for worship music.
  18. No need for pastors and youth pastors.
  19. No need for Bible teachers.
  20. No need for going on with life...because “I couldn’t” keep going on without “Christ in me the hope of glory” who helps me do “all things through Christ who strengthens me.” 
  21. No need for ___________________________________?

What if Jesus had not come?  What then?

Monday, December 5, 2011

I Am...the One and Only!

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14

Thanksgiving?  Over!  Christmas? On the horizon.  Over the next few weeks, our minds will be engaged with the coming festivities.  As, I close this series on the “I Am’s” of Jesus, these three words highlight what the season is all about for me.  Jesus – my One and Only! 
My One and Only...who created the world in which I live.
My One and Only...who gives life and breath.
My One and Only...who is the perfect shepherd, &
My One and Only...who is the perfect lamb of God.
My One and Only...who sacrificed for my salvation.
My One and Only...who redeemed my soul.
My One and Only...who offered me complete forgiveness.
My One and Only...who chose me to be adopted by grace into a new family.
My One and Only...who loves me endlessly.
My One and Only...who prepares eternity for me.
My One and Only...who set me free.
My One and Only...who declares me “not guilty,” accepts me unconditionally, and whispers you are not condemned (“Go! Sin no more!”)
My One and Only...who provides all that I need.
My One and Only...who knows my end from my beginning.
My One and Only...who has a good work ordained for me – a purpose and value to my existence.
My One and Only...who is full of grace.
My One and Only...who speaks truth, gently but firmly.
My One and Only...who sets my feet upon a righteous path.
My One and Only...who offers me an abundant life.
My One and Only...who speaks words of intimacy to me.
My One and Only...who assures me of His presence.
My One and Only...who blesses me beyond measure.
My One and Only...who calls me “friend.”
My One and Only...who heals my broken heart.
My One and Only...who sustains me in his massive, supportive hand.
My One and Only...who knows just what I need, when I need it, and doesn’t always answer yes to my heart’s desires (because my best is always what's put first).
My One and Only...who is at work completing me – thank you, God!

May this holiday season find you daily contemplating your One and Only!

Monday, November 28, 2011

I Am...the True Vine!

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener...
I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
John 15:1, 5

As I sit to begin this thought, a bowl of sweet grapes sits in front of me.  Refreshing.  Satisfying.  Sweet.  Good to eat.  For someone trying to eat a bit healthier, fruit is my candy of choice these days.  “Good calories.”  Nutritional.  So, of course, as I type the above passage, focusing on a new “I Am” of Jesus, it’s the word fruit that draws my attention.  I want to be what fruit is to others.  As I begin to unpeel the layers of the onion that is Peg Forrest, what I hope people around me see at the very core are those same descriptive phrases.  It would be my desire that when I’m gone, those who knew me best might say about me such things:  Refreshing!  Sweet!  Soul satisfying!  Her words were “good calories, nutritional” to the heart.

For this to be true, the key, then, is found in clinging tightly to, abiding in, being closely connected to the true vine.  Without that “connectedness,” what I want is not what I will get.   Apart from him, I can “be” nothing; I can “do” nothing.  He is the only possibility for anything good to spring out of my life.  “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine (verse 4).”   

These questions naturally follow:
What does it mean to remain/abide?
How does this look, practically speaking?

Obviously, my research took me to Galatians 5:16-25, because sandwiched in this passage is the “good fruit” of those who belong to Christ Jesus.  I see a couple of repeated phrases which are in contrast to one another:  live by the Spirit (16, 18, 25) vs. gratifying the desires of the sinful nature (16, 19, 24).  These are in conflict with one another, so that we do not do what we want (17).”   I am a simple gal – so, in simple terms, I find two simple answers to the above two questions.
1)    In John 15, Jesus connects his abiding word as a critical piece to the abiding Christian (15:7).
2)    In Galatians 5, Paul, through the Holy Spirit, reminds the abiding Christian that to be fruitful one has to “keep in step with the Spirit.”  This occurs when the sinful desires are crucified and replaced with the abiding word.  Only then do we allow the life giving spiritual sap the ability to produce what we want to see in our lives:  refreshing, soul-satisfying, candy-sweet fruit!

So, being in the Word and out of the flesh allows me to stay in the abiding presence of the true vine.  Apart from him, there is no fruit.

Connected – nothing is impossible!

Monday, November 21, 2011

I Am...The Spring of Living Water!

I am...the spring of living water (John 4:1-30, Jeremiah 2:13)

The jar on her shoulders, while empty, carried the weight of the world, as the woman struggled with every step toward the well.  She preferred coming during the hottest hours, because she knew she’d be alone.  Better to sweat under the mid-day temperatures, than under the heavy stares and whispers of the other women.  Theirs were the voices she heard in her head, anyway.  She knew what they said, and she beat herself up regularly with the same sentiments.  Her heart carried the same weight she felt on her shoulders...yet, it was just as empty as the jar she sought to fill.  Internally, at her deepest level, she was gut thirsty.  No matter how many times she drank deeply from Jacob’s well, she wasn’t satisfied.  It was this deep dissatisfaction, that kept her searching, looking to so many men to fill the hole in her heart.

As she moved slowly towards the well, her eyes stared at the sight of an individual perched there...waiting.  Her spirits sank.  She didn’t feel like talking.  She kept her head down, hoping to avoid eye contact that might possibly invite any conversation.  The Jewish man apparently didn’t take the cue, asking her for a drink.  What twists and turns their dialogue took, until the moment he asked her to go call her husband, and then proceeded to unwrap her past.  She definitely didn’t want to go there, so she tried to change topics.  Yet no matter what direction she digressed, he followed, and the invitation was still the same:  “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”  Translation:  I am the satisfaction of life you are looking for...drink deeply! You will never thirst again.

Leaving the symbol of her thirsty life behind, the woman ran into town...”Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did (shame – gone!).”  Her next words were even more telling as she declared him to be the, the source of her soul’s true satisfaction.  (See John 4:1-30)

Many of us have found Jesus to be a sufficient Savior.  We’re grateful for the forgiveness of sin.  We’re hopeful for the gift of eternal life.  Yet the secret we harbor is the same as the woman at the well in Samaria.  We hold it inside.  We’re careful to not voice it.  To do so, doesn’t seem very “Christian.”  However, we’re just not satisfied.  We keep stuffing our lives with all manners of possibilities trying to find the one thing that will bring us happiness, contentment...fullness of life.  Yet Jesus came to bring us life and life more abundantly (John 10:10).  Anything other than Jesus is less.  Looking anywhere other than the cross is nothing more than a broken cistern (Jeremiah 2:13).  He is the spring of living water – turn away from anything you search for that you think will bring you happiness.  The guarantee is this:  it won’t.  It can’t.  Only Jesus can.  Anything else is sadly, simply – an idol. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

I Am...the God Who Fights for You!

I am the good shepherd (John 10:11, 14)...Part 4

Not only does a good shepherd lead...
                A good shepherd provides...
                And a good shepherd restores our souls...
                A good shepherd fights for his sheep!

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me;
Thy rod and staff, they comfort me.  Thou doest prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies...  (Ps 23:4-5a)

I really am not certain why Psalm 23 is primarily used as the food for funerals.  It’s a “how to” passage for life!  It’s food for today’s living soul.  It’s reminders for the journey of life, not for the dead.   I don’t know about you, but I need to know right now, today, in this very moment, that I have one who is fighting on my behalf. 

I don’t want to know that I just have a guard at the gate.  I want to know I have a knight in shining armor warring for ME!  Somewhere I came up with this belief system that tells me I am only protected as far as someone is willing to go into battle.  That’s my shepherd, Jesus!  As he leads me (and sometimes to get me to good grass and restorative waters his path leads me through dangerous places – like in the presence of my enemies), he will fight at all costs to protect me.  More than fight, he knows my fearful, anxious heart.  So, he comforts me and assures me of his presence.  I can breathe a whole lot easier when I know these truths:  I am fought for.  I am protected.  I am in his presence – always!  I am comforted...why, then, should I fear?  What can man really do to me?

Over and over again, this truth is lived out in Scriptures.  Some of my favorites:
Exodus 14:14 – “The Lord will fight for you!
Joshua – the battle of Jericho.  The Lord went before them as they marched and sounded the trumpet.  God penetrated the impenetrable walls and brought forth the victory.

David against Goliath - “You come against me with spear and a sword, but I come against you in the name of the Lord of Hosts.  The battle is the Lord’s!”

Jehoshaphat – God gave him the marching orders: Go into battle with praise.  Praise confused the enemy and they defeated themselves!  The Israelites never lifted a finger.

When God’s people followed, forsaking all other gods, He tirelessly, endlessly, stubbornly fought on their behalf.  These aren’t fairy tales, or dreams, or wishful thinking.  This is our God – the God who fights on our behalf!

I need to know this truth.  In fact, as I write, it brings tears to my eyes.  Many of you don’t feel you have anyone in your corner fighting for you.  It has left you feeling insignificant and unimportant.  Let me assure you –
You are not only worth fighting for – you were worth dying for!

Fear no evil!  Your God leads.  He fights.  He is with you...always.

Monday, November 7, 2011

I Am...Your Restorer!

I am the good shepherd (John 10:11, 14)...Part 3

Not only does a good shepherd lead...
                A good shepherd provides...
                And a good shepherd restores our souls.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me to lie down in green pastures
He leads me beside still waters; He restores my soul...
(Ps. 23:1-3a)

I have three friends who love to restore old cars.  Once classics, now damaged on the outside, rusted with time, and internally exhausted – done!  They beat, pound, weld, sand, scrub, pull apart, replace, wash, spray, paint, wire, bolt, and connect and keep on doing more of the same – until, voila!  What seemed hopeless is new again and its value is restored – actually, more than restored.

People are hard on cars over the years.  People are hard on people.  Too often enough, the wear and tear of life, aren’t the only reason we need to be restored.  Sometimes, the way people treat us, hastens the battering and the bleeding and the wearing out of the soul.  I frequently sit knee to knee, and look eye to eye with some of these people.  I have been one.  Restoration of old cars is an expensive, long, and tiresome process.  So is restoring a soul.

But Jesus...He is in the restoration business.  That’s in his job description.  People are far too valuable to bring before some novice, hobby-loving repairman.  People deserve better.  To begin with, Jesus has already purchased everything we will need to be completed.  It’s been paid for with his blood.  We don’t have to put a dime into fixing ourselves, and couldn’t afford him if we had a dime.’s a done deal.

He has all the right tools – love, grace, mercy, patience, forgiveness, gentleness, kindness are just a few.  He knows when, where and how to use them.

He has the time – He’ll stay with us as long as it takes, never leaving us or forsaking us.

He knows how to best care for us with exactly what we need – after all, he created us.  Who better, then, to do the restoring?

Oh, and he has an instruction manual to help us along the way – so we don’t have to have a complete over haul, ever again.  The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul (Ps 19:7)! 

He thinks of everything!  Now, while on the road of life, we can look for the warning lights, change the oil regularly, and do some daily maintenance that will keep our souls running like energizer bunnies... J

Here’s the real message of restoration!

Only God can turn a mess into a message
A test into a testimony
A trial into a triumph
And a victim into a victorious warrior!

Come to your good shepherd.  Be restored.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I Am...Your Provider!

I am the good shepherd (John 10:11, 14)...Part 2

Not only does a good shepherd lead...
            A good shepherd provides.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me to lie down in green pastures
(Ps. 23:1-2a)

By name, our God is Jehovah Jireh (meaning, I AM...the God who provides).  The Hebrew word for “want” is chacer: to lack, to be in need.  We may not have all we “want,” but we can be assured our needs are taken care of on a daily basis.  My biggest problem is that I get my needs and my wants all mixed up.  It’s so easy to do when you live in our instant gratification society.  So, in order to get perspective, I’ve had to ask myself: what does God say?  Not Abraham Maslow.  Not the government.  Not my next door neighbor.  If my shepherd promises to give me what I need, then maybe I need to examine what my shepherd thinks is important.

In Genesis 22 – God provided the lamb.  As sheep, our shepherd became the lamb that took away our sins!  We NEED salvation.  He provides.

Throughout the Psalms & Proverbs as well as in Matthew 6: God provides food, clothing, shelter...and we do not need to worry.  He provides.

In 1 Corinthians 10:13, He provides a way out of temptation...  I have an escape.  Thank you, Lord...I definitely need that provision!

In Philippians 4:13,  God provides us with strength.  In Romans 8, we’re reminded that we have unlimited power for “the one who raised Christ Jesus from the dead dwells in me!”  I can do all things!  An amazing provision!

In Isaiah 61, God provides good news: healing for the brokenhearted, freedom for captives, release from darkness, a comfort for those who mourn, and a crown of beauty out of t he ashes of our lives...  I can be a Resurrection Woman!

In Ephesians 2, God reminds us that, while we were once far off, now we are brought near, and adopted into a new household:  a community designed to be a family.  I am never alone!

Also in Ephesians 2:10, God provides for us a “good work” that he predestined us to do “in Christ Jesus.”  I have purpose!

In Ephesians 3, we have been granted full confidence to approach the throne of grace!  I am heard!  I take advantage of this provision often!

In Revelation, we have the hope of heaven.  I have a future and a hope!  God knows we need this kind of “vision,” for without it people perish!

In Hebrews 12, God provides a cheering squad that helps us endure the toughest of times.  Yep – need that, too!

I could go on and on...thus far I am overwhelmed at what I have been given!  I am truly blessed.  My Shepherd provides above and beyond all that I could ask or even imagine. Praise, Jehovah Jireh – “I Am” the One who provides!

Monday, October 24, 2011

I Am...the Good Shepherd!

I am the good shepherd (John 10:11, 14)...

While I haven’t spent a lot of time around sheep, I do know a few things about them.  What I know makes me resent this “I Am...”  If Jesus is the good shepherd, then by common sense deduction, I am a sheep.  Forget the soft cuddly little animal that decorates nurseries.  What a misrepresentation of the real deal.  Everything I know about sheep begins with the letter “s”.  They stink.  They are stubborn.  They are stupid.  The last thing I want to acknowledge about myself is that I might be a sheep.  In reality, however, it is an accurate comparison (well, my smell isn’t so awful, but my behavior can be...).  So, yes, I need a shepherd...desperately!
I already know that it’s going to take more than one brief blog to dialogue about Jesus as our shepherd. For the purposes of this week’s reflection, we will only look at one attribute of a good shepherd.  A good shepherd is a good leader:
“...the sheep listen to his voice.  He calls his own sheep by name and leads them...and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.  They will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice (3b-4).”
Sheep do that, you know...they follow their own shepherd.  They might be in a field filled with other sheep from other folds, but, because they have spent so much time with their own shepherd, they recognize his voice.  When they hear that voice, they follow.  They separate out from the rest of the sheep, and they go after their shepherd.  Because they have spent so much time with their own shepherd, they trust that he will “lead them beside quiet, restorative waters (Ps 23:2b-3).”  They won’t trust other shepherds to do the same.  Following is an issue of trust...always!
When Jesus speaks this “I am” statement, his singular vision, his primary purpose, his truth for me to grapple with is this:  Will I let Him lead?
You see, a lot of times, I look to Jesus as a friend, a confidant, an advisor, an encourager, a counselor, a “life-coach” (if you will), a computerized GPS.  While he is very much those things along the way of life, he. first and foremost, desires my determination to allow him to do what he does best – LEAD.   The problem is I want a bit of a say in where we go.  I want a head’s up for the journey ahead.  I really am saying something like this to my shepherd, “Oh, I’ll follow............but, with some consideration.  Just give me a little idea of what’s up the road.  Let me deliberate a little bit.”  Jesus, the good shepherd, doesn’t want our consideration.  He doesn’t desire deliberation.  He plans for our participation.  We can trust that while the up may sometimes seem steep and rocky – the grass at the top will be healthier and we will ultimately be happier (more blessed).
Blessed am I when I don’t just consider following my good shepherd, but surrender to him with willing participation!

Monday, October 17, 2011

I Am...the Door!

So, Jesus said to them, “I am the door... (John 10:7, 9)

In a section of Scripture that mostly refers to Jesus as The Good Shepherd (next week), we can’t move forward until we stop at these words, “I am the door.”  He is: the way in, the opening, the gate, the entrance.  If you come in any other way, you don’t belong (in fact, you would be a thief or a robber).

Obviously, Jesus is referring to being the only way to salvation...the only way “in” to heaven.  He is the only way “in” to a relationship with the Father.  Yet, I think there’s more; there’s more to being a door.  Not only did the door allow entrance, the door kept out that which should not go inside.  The door was the filter, the guard that kept good protected, as well as defended, yet kept out the bad.  If Jesus is the door, then He, too, is the filter; and the Bible makes it clear that as The Filter, He is love.  He is good.

So, unless we create another way in, evil (as in the thief/robber) cannot be present in the sheepfold.  Yet trials, hardship, struggles, and suffering sometimes hit the sheep in the pen.  If Jesus is The Filter, how come?  Why?  After all, we just said it, He is love.  Those are the questions we often ask.  Yet, The Filter can’t be what He is not.  He has to be good.  He has to be love.  The door simply is what it is.  So, reason stands that if this is true, those things that are allowed in that seem bad are really good. 

Whoa!  Wait a minute! We can’t call bad good!  Why not?  Is bad not redeemable?  If it can’t be redeemed, then can Jesus be The Redeemer?  Bad always becomes good when it passes through the door.  It is transformed in the midst of the filtering process.  Because bad is transformed into good, it also becomes transforming.  The sheep are changed.  True, they may be broken down, but, always for the purpose of being built back up.  Bad becomes good because of the transforming redemptive quality.  It has been used for Redemption’s sake.

There is circumstance, no trouble, no testing that can ever touch me until, first of all it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to me.  If it has come that far, it has come with a great purpose, which I may not understand at the moment.  But as I refuse to become panicky, as I lift up my eyes to him and accept it as coming from the throne of God for some great purpose of blessing to my own heart, no sorrow will ever disturb me, no trial will ever disarm me, no circumstance will cause me to fret.  For I will rest in the joy of what my Lord is!  That is the rest of VICTORY!

Monday, October 10, 2011

I Am...The God of Nevertheless!

“I interrupt this series…” Well, sort of.  While this isn’t an “I Am” statement of Jesus (like those we’ve been diving into), this is an “I Am,” nevertheless.   As I was reading through Psalm 106 this morning, my eyes were stopped twice by one word.  It is a sweet word.  A hopeful word.  A cleansing word.  A word promising a better tomorrow: a do-over!  It is a word that really can only, wholly be fulfilled from the heart of a God of lovingkindness.  NEVERTHELESS.

Their hearts were hardened…NEVERTHELESS.
They rebelled…NEVERTHELESS.
They provoked God to wrath…NEVERTHELESS.
They served idols…NEVERTHELESS.
They played the harlot…NEVERTHELESS.
They even sacrificed their sons and daughters to demons…NEVERTHELESS.
They became unclean in their practices…NEVERTHELESS.
They grumbled…NEVERTHELESS.
They were jealous…NEVERTHELESS.
They sinned, committed iniquity, & behaved wickedly…NEVERTHELESS.
They forgot God’s abundant kindnesses…NEVERTHELESS.
They craved, they lusted, & they tempted God…NEVERTHELESS.
They exchanged their glory (God) for the image of an ox…NEVERTHELESS.

Yes, there were consequences.  Some died; experienced disease; were swallowed up; carried off to foreign lands as slaves; provoked God’s anger, and, He even abhorred His inheritance…NEVERTHELESS!

He heard their cries.
Looked upon their distress.
Remembered His covenant.
He was sorry according to the GREATNESS of His lovingkindness.
Many times He would deliver them.

They received salvation that He might make His power known.
He redeemed them.  Rescued them.  Gave them new beginnings and fresh starts. 

Praise the Lord!  O Give thanks to the Lord for He is good.  His lovingkindness is everlasting (verse 1).

May the “NEVERTHELESS-es” in my life always lead me to NEVER AGAINS!

Monday, October 3, 2011

I Am...the Light of the World, 2!

When 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

I was just re-visiting last week’s “thought.”  It just dawned on me there is one bug that doesn’t like light – the cockroach.  So, that got me thinking about how those who “love the darkness” (cockroaches, spiritually speaking) respond when they are forced into the light?  What happens to the sin-steeped soul that steps into THE LIGHT?  I’m thinking I know, as there have been times (sorry to pop any naive bubbles) when I have tried to avoid the light from exposing my own sinful nature.  I react very much like a cockroach and try to escape quickly into hiding once more.  The dark “feels” much safer.  At least, during those times, that is my perception.  If I’m a cockroach, I don’t love the light.

So, I have been drawn back to John 8 asking the Lord for a little more “light” on this dilemma.  Sometimes it’s shocking to me how God answers those kinds of questions.  Do you know what story precedes this passage?  The woman caught in adultery!  After picking my jaw up off the floor when I realized this fact, I began to ask myself why this story, right here, sandwiched in this place?  Think about it.  This woman with no name was caught in the very act of adultery.  She was drug from the bed in a darkened room out into the daylight to stand before the SONLIGHT.  There she stood.  Naked.  Exposed.  From the inside out.  Whatever Jesus wrote in the dirt, caused the others to run for cover (maybe he exposed the “cockroachedness” of their sinful hearts), but the woman stayed.  She could have run, but I’m thinking she was tired of running.  Sometimes, even amidst the painfulness of the exposure, we’re glad we finally got caught.  We’re glad we can stop running.  Somehow, there in the face of THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD, she saw mercy. 

“Woman, where are your accusers?” 


“Neither do I accuse you.  Go and sin no more.”

The very thing that we shy away from when we are in sin (Light) becomes the very thing that now covers our sin (Light). Who would have thought?!  Only in the way the mind of God works, could we ever find the irony of total healing.  If we don’t step into the light, there will be no answer for our hidden shame.  If we don’t step into the light, we cannot be covered.  If we don’t let the light expose and cover, we will not find freedom to “go and sin no more.”  Victory is only found in the LIGHT. 

The LIGHT is not to be feared...but treasured.  Not to scurry away from into hidden dark corners of our hearts, but to run toward as fast as our feet can carry us.  GO!  Sin no more.

(A) He is THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD  +  (B)  I am covered and set free.  =  (C)  I can live life to the full in that freedom, no longer a cockroach (maybe a lightning bug?)!

Monday, September 26, 2011

I Am...the Light of the World!

When 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

We have lived a lot of places where it’s quite common to lose electricity.  About 90% of the time, it seems to happen at night.  It has to be one of Murphy’s Laws: When electricity goes out, it will be after dark.  No normal human likes darkness.  It’s difficult to navigate in the dark.  It’s impossible to find what you’re looking for.  It’s easy to get hurt.  Evil seems to be more “present.”  It’s a known fact that being in the dark is a much more frightening place.  A quick internet research shows that psychologists tell us the reason people are afraid of the dark is because “sounds lose their connection and uneasy suspicions are created.”  Personally, I don’t care what reason they come up with psychologically, or scientifically, I just know I do not like the dark.

That’s why in my house, we keep flashlights within quick, easy reach.  Every room is equipped with oil lamps.  The cupboard is full of candles.  When it comes to losing electricity, I earn the Girl Scout badge for being prepared.  All it takes is just one little light, and my heart stops racing, my mind settles down, and I am at rest.  If you think I’m bad now, you should have seen what I was like as a little girl...

One little light makes a difference.  Light is warm as it embraces us.  Light gives direction and puts everything back into perspective.  Light eliminates fear.  Light reveals what is around me, enabling me to stay relatively safe.  I’ve read that light is a natural, proactive source that wars against depression.  Light drives out evil.  Everyone is attracted to light – even bugs.

Jesus isn’t just one little candle lit in the dark.  He is the light of the world.  That’s a lot of light!  Even the sun can't light the whole world.  Think what that kind of light can accomplish in us when we allow ourselves to step into it! 

Probably what leaves me most speechless is that THE LIGHT places HIS LIGHT inside of me.  THE LIGHT taught, “You are the light of the world.  A city 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.  In the same way let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven (Matt. 5:14-16).”

This, too, is my prayer...So be it! 

(A) He is THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD  +  (B)  I am LIGHT  =  (C)  I can make a difference in my world.