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Weekly Word

Entries in Light (3)

Tuesday
Dec232014

Seeing the Light in a World of Darkness

This week many will be celebrating Christmas, but will they truly understand what the celebration should be all about?  Today we are going to look at Mattew 1:18-25 and see some of the events of that first Christmas.

When we look at the news events of 2014- outbreaks of Ebola, terrorism and the rise of new terrorist groups, the slaughter of young kids, Russia threatening Ukraine, even unrest on our own streets in Ferguson and beyond- we are reminded that some things haven’t changed so very much.  Israel was under the rule of a maniacal king who even killed members of his immediate family.  Rome was controlling the area under the tyranny of its military might. Scores of little children were killed that year in Bethlehem in senseless violence.  At the root of all these things, whether then or now, is a thing that God calls sin.  At Christmas we do not just celebrate Hope and love, rather we also celebrate the answer that God has given mankind for the darkness that exists in our heart and covers this planet.

Jesus Saves Us from Our Sin

There are many things that we may wish God had fixed, however, in Jesus His focus is upon the sin of mankind.  The angel told Joseph that his name would be Jesus because he would save his people from their sins.  Jesus literally means “God saves.”  This is a critical part of His nature that we need to recognize and live out ourselves.  At His heart, God is a being who saves things and people.  There are some parts of the Christmas message that may seem to have fallen short.  Joy to the world and peace on earth?  Even though the words of Jesus could bring Peace to anyone in the world, many have rejected it and in doing so rejected his peace.  The lack of world peace is proof that Jesus won’t be winning any beauty pageants soon- most contestants give lip service to wanting world peace.  But, let’s back up and make sure we understand what we are talking about with this word “sin.”

In general sin is defined in the Bible as transgressing the boundaries or laws of God.  The Garden of Eden is the foundational story here.  The trees represented the boundaries created by God.  The serpent (who is later revealed as the Devil and Satan, Revelation 12:9; 20:2) deceives and tricks Eve and Adam to rebel against God’s boundaries and laws.  As innocent as this may seem, it is the root of all our problems today.  We have been infected with an insidious mental virus that motivates us to not accept such boundaries and laws, even when they are good for us and others.  Now sin is not just the things we do, but also the things we don’t do that we should.  God created us to be like Him.  Thus when we reject that aspect of our own nature we sin by omission.  Now sin is not just a legal problem.  Some believe that if we could just get rid of “God” and this idea of boundaries and laws, then we could create Eutopia on earth.  Now think about that in the natural.  What country today, if they got rid of all laws and boundaries, would then quickly become anything but a hell-hole of seething violence and bondage?  In other words, the laws do not create sin they only stir it up.  God created this world to operate in a certain way.  He created mankind to operate in a certain way.  But sin twists and perverts the way things were meant to work for no other purpose than to rebel against God’s creation.  This causes problems that cannot be overcome by humanity.  Instead we will build ever stronger prisons for ourselves through our attempts at even becoming God ourselves.

When we talk about sin the first thought that comes to our minds is the sins of others.  Yet, the Bible says, “none are righteous, no not one.”  So sin is not just this collective thing that hangs over the head of mankind.  It is also a very personal thing that riddles our hearts.  The whole purpose of the Law of Moses was not to fix Israel.  But rather, its purpose was to trap religious and spiritual people who think that they are good enough because they compare themselves to others.  Everyone who tries to live by the Law of Moses found themselves being labled a "sinner" over and over.  Even in our own society under man made laws we see the same effect.  We break laws all the time.  Yet, we tell ourselves that it is okay because we aren't as bad as others, or the laws weren't important.  Now this is with a man-made law.  Laws are necessary for us to be able to live together in a society.  Yet, our own heart chafes at them, not just because they are unjust, but often because they keep us from doing what we want.  There are dangerous attitudes that can develop when we approach this issue.  On one hand we can try to make laws the answer because of man's sin.  On the other hand we can try to treat laws like they are the problem.  This "sin nature" problem is pointed out by laws, but cannot be fixed by it.  Like a metal detector, it can point out where the metal is, but it can't pick it up for you.  There is a part of us that wants more laws to restrain others and yet we don't want any of those laws to hold us back.  Similarly, we want God to "fix the world" but we don't want Him to mess with us in doing it.  I am a sinner too.  Jesus was sinless.  Yet, he came into the world under the specter of sin.  His mother would not be believed by society.  He would always be the "Illegitimate" child of Joseph and Mary and even that would be a question regarding who the true father was.  We chafe at being called a sinner when we truly are.  Yet, Jesus lived his whole life under this shadow.

Another part of the story of Jesus is that he breaks down the "us vs. them" mentality.  The "righteous" Jews had developed an attitude of spiritual elitism over the other nations.  But in Jesus we see that we are all sinners.  Whether secular Romans or religious Jews, the sensual woman at the well or the "spiritual" medium in Ephesus, the truth of Jesus confronted the sin of all people and yet gives the offer of being saved from it.

Thus sin is pictured as a lack of light.  This spiritual darkness covered the whole world, not just certain parts of it.  It started with rejecting God's Word about His boundaries and laws.  Then succeeding generations left such light behind in ever greater bounds; causing the shadows to quickly become pitch darkness.  In the days of Jesus, even people who wanted to please God were having trouble finding reasons to continue living for Him.  The only thing they had left was the promise of God's "Anointed One" who would be the Savior, a bright light of Truth coming into this dark world.

Jesus is God With Us

The miraculous birth of Jesus is called the virgin birth.  Although much extra-biblical stuff has been added to this, we need to set the record straight.  The Bible simply states that before Mary ever had sex (known a man) God caused one of her eggs to be fertilized.  If you have a problem with such a creative act then you really have a problem with everything to do with the Creation.  Fertilization is merely the insertion of the information needed to awaken life in the egg.  Thus the it is called a virgin birth because the woman having the baby had never had sex.  The Bible never claims that Mary was somehow "preserved as a virgin" in the birth of the Baby (i.e. as if she had never had birth).  Neither does the Bible claim that Joseph and Mary never later had children in the natural way.  It states quite the opposite.  Matthew reminds us of the prophecies of the Bible regarding the Savior.  These prophecies often pointed out what the Savior would do, but very few on what his entrance would look like.  One thing was clear from the book of Isaiah, He would be called Immanuel because he would literally be God with us.  It is easy 2,000 years later to scoff at such a thing as just another mythology amongst the many religions that spoke of Gods having demi-gods with women.  Such people see the other myths as the explanation or source of the Jesus story.  Yet, isn't it just as plausible that all of the mythologies have a source that is a real event even more ancient then they?  Isn't it just as plausible that all of these religions were trying to get back to something that mankind once had, in the Beginning?

There was a time when we walked with God back in the Paradise of the Garden of Eden.  When Noah and his family stepped off of the ark, they all knew this history.  It was there that God walked with Adam and Eve and explained his ways and designs for them.  Within the consciousness of mankind is the recognition that Eutopia or Paradise is not possible without God coming down to help us.  Thus, as the generations after Noah rejected the things taught by God, they did retain the idea of a god coming down to help mankind.  Thus, whether men look to other spirits, the occult, aliens or even transhumanism (where we make ourselves gods), we know the answer currently lies beyond our capabilities.

It is in the Garden of Eden that mankind chose the path of sin, darkness and rebellion.  This darkness not only affects our relations with one another, but it also affects our thinking.  Like a lost person we are unable to "think" our way out of the current darkness that smothers the souls of men.

One of the themes of the Bible is that God does not abandon mankind.  Starting in the Garden and throughout the ages, He had given promises to mankind (in what we call prophecies) pointing to a time when He would once again dwell with us.  A number of years ago a Christian scientist named Peter Stoner set out to use statistical probability to show the miraculous nature of all the prophecies that Jesus fulfilled.  He took 8 prophecies and determined that the probability of any one person fulfilling all 8 of them was about 10^17 that is 100 quadrillion.  To understand this number he used this illustration.  Picture the whole State of Texas being covered with silver dollars 2 feet deep with one of the dollars painted red.  Your chance of finding that coin in one try while being blindfolded is about 10^17.  This is a statistical impossibility.  Yet, there are more than 8 prophecies about the first coming of Christ.  There are actually around 300 depending on how you list them.  Most of these things were uncontrollable by Jesus and those around him.  By telling history in advance, God validated his prophecies so that when Jesus came we would know that he had come down and that he truly was, as Isaiah said, Immanuel ("God with us)."

The birth of Jesus fulfilled the prophecies about his coming.  But what if he had grown up to do nothing special or of any significance?  It is not just the things said about the child, but what he then went on to do.  Jesus is the singular man of all history that towers above the deeds of all others.  None even come close to comparing to him in his life and affect on the world.  It is the life of this child and the affect it had on the world that confirms he is the one.

So, has anything really changed since then?  Don't we see darkness all around us and sin defeating us and tearing us apart?  Yet, we are not in the same predicament.  Some very real things have changed.  First, God is now with us.  Though Jesus goes to the right hand of the Father, He sends the Holy Spirit to dwell within those who believe in him.  This same Spirit of Christ leads us and guides us in the midst of darkness.  It lights our way.  Second, the suffering of Jesus provides for us forgiveness from our sins.  Thus in the midst of a world that is under the doom of judgment we do not have to fear.  We can believe on the sacrificial death of Jesus for our sins and have confidence in the midst of darkness.  Third, His suffering and life provides for us the courage to be faithful in the midst of a world of faithlessness.  This example of what to do and how God will reward burns in our hearts.  Lastly, His love compels us to believe for the salvation of others.  God could have judged the world on the day Jesus was crucified.  Yet, he pauses judgment in order to open the door of salvation for "whosoever" would believe on Jesus.  God says to all who will allow Him to conquer sin in their life, "come join my family and you will inherit paradise with me in the Age to come."  Join Him today!

Seeing Light in Darkness audio

Tuesday
Dec022014

Faults of the Evil Generation I

Today we will be looking at Luke 11:33-36.

The eye is an incredible organ in our body.  Without it our life would be tremendously more difficult.  In fact, if no one could see it would be practically impossible.  Yet, even more incredible than the eye is the properties of light that the eye is designed to exploit.  Light can transmit many different kinds of information over vast distances within seconds.  This property of bringing information to us that we could never obtain for ourselves is an important picture for spiritual matters.

After having stated that his generation was an evil one, Jesus began to point out things that gave evidence to this.  Last week the point was that an evil generation is always looking for a greater sign.  Their unbelief is never satisfied.  Here today we are going to see how unbelief and desire for sin had also impacted their ability to see the Light of God, which was the Truth that God was revealing through Jesus.

They Couldn’t See The Truth

Psalm 119:105 says, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  Throughout the Bible light is used as a metaphor for God’s revelation of truth, righteousness, and what is good.  Jesus uses this metaphor along with another related metaphor; a lamp.  The lamp is the instrument through which the light shines.  In the days of Jesus the people in general were unable to see the truth that God was trying to reveal to them.  It was as if they were blind to it.  God had been faithful throughout the ages to give light to the world.  That light revealed what God was doing and what He expected from mankind.  This light was not hidden.  He had openly dealt with mankind.  However, mankind had a habit of casting aside this revelation and coming up with answers on their own, or, worse, listening to the teaching of evil spirits.  In Jesus mankind is given the perfectly clear brilliance of the truth of God.  There was no sin or weakness to dim its revelation.  This is pointed out by the writer of the book of Hebrews in chapter 1 verses 1-3.  “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person…”  So in Jesus they had the perfect representation of God and His will without any error.

Now up until Jesus mankind could complain that the light they received wasn’t clear enough.  None of the prophets were perfect men, even if they perfectly recorded what God told them to say.  This could jam people’s ability or desire to listen to what they had to say.  It is easy to point to the other person and say the fault all lies within them (whether prophet, or God Himself).  But the truth of the matter is that our ability to receive truth from God can be good or bad.  We are as much a critical part of this equation as they are.  Jesus points this out in vs. 34.  Just like a lamp is set in a room to fill the room with light, so God has given man eyes so that we can be filled with the information of what is around us, but also as a means of receiving communication from God.  Thus when light comes into our body it first goes into the mind and is decoded.  From that decoding we make decisions that direct the rest of our body (feet, hands, mouth, etc…) how to respond.  Of course, Jesus is not concerned about physical sight.  He is concerned with our ability to understand spiritual matters and thus our spiritual sight.  God was brilliantly and openly revealing His plan of salvation for Israel and the rest of the world, but most of them could not see it.  They were spiritually blind.  This caused them to be full of darkness even though it was “midday” as it were.  Like a blind man in a room they would not know how to act during the days ahead.

How are your spiritual eyes?  Are there things that are blocking your ability to see the truth that God is trying to give you?  Often the hurts and injuries of the past affect our ability to see today.  Take time to prayerfully ask God to reveal to you what is standing in your way of seeing what He is saying.

This is what Jesus points to in vs. 35.  He warns us to check our spiritual eyesight.  Take heed is to observe or check something out.  The people as a whole claimed to have light (and they did).  But the light was doing them no good.  Sin and rebellion had covered their eyes like cataracts and darkened their lives.  They were full of spiritual darkness.  This needed introspection is made easier now that we have Jesus.  I can simply gauge my ability to see by my resistance to the words and teaching of Jesus.  Now this can’t just be cherry-picked parts of what Jesus says.  But, rather, all of what He says, including the Apostles for whom he personally vouched.  Am I embracing the whole light of Christ or only partial light?  If I only embrace part of Christ there are shadows in my inner life.  God is always working to bring us to knowledge of the Truth.  It is only through humble introspection, in which we prayerfully ask God’s help, that we can avoid being blind.  God intends us to be full of light/truth so that we will live out His love according to His ways, not ours.

This brings us to the Lamp analogy.  In this passage the Light that is not being received is Jesus himself.  Yet, Jesus told his disciples elsewhere that they were also the light of the world.  While he was here Jesus was the light of the world and through the Bible He continues to be so.  However, he has put his light in those who follow him; like a lamp.  So that there would continue to be light in every generation.    God has given us so much light here in America.  We are without excuse to not recognize His truth.  We can point to churches and “so-called” Christians in our past as excuses to God.  But in the end God’s Word tells us there would be people who didn’t accurately reflect Him.  The way that we would know it is that we could compare them to Jesus.  We are without excuse because we have record of the perfect light.  How good of a lamp am I?  The light of Jesus is perfect, but if something is wrong with me as a lamp the light will be hindered.  Just as a person has personal responsibility to make sure they are seeing well, so believers have a responsibility to make sure they are transmitting the light of Christ well.  Am I a broken or dirty lamp?  Yes, you have received the light of Christ, but is it shining out well?  Jesus told us, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.”

In this sense our generation is just as evil as they days of Jesus.  Many are blind.  Don’t let excuses and the sin of others be your justification for rejecting the light of Christ.  Get into the Bible and discover Christ for yourself.  Pray to God to open your eyes and enable you to see the perfect light of Christ, not as you desire it to be, but as it truly is.

Faults I audio

Tuesday
May202014

Hearing God’s Word

Have you ever been given something that was very important to the person who gave it to you?  When I was about 13 years old my grandmother let me borrow a book that was very important to her.  It was an historical look at Russia’s last Emperor, Nikolay, and the brutal murder of his family at the hands of the communist Bolsheviks when they took over.  She had wrapped it up in a small white garbage bag so that it wouldn’t get wet.  I took it to my house and began reading it.  However, one day it went missing.  I looked everywhere and could not find it.  At that point, I had that sinking feeling you get when you know you have to face the music.  I never knew what happened to that book.  But, I learned a lesson about how to take care of those things that are valuable to another. 

Two weeks ago we looked at the Parable of the Soils, which pointed out that we need to take care how we receive God’s Word.  God’s Word is precious to Him, not just because it is His, but also because of what it can do for us.  We can be guilty at times of flippantly receiving something that is incredible important to God.  In today’s passage we will see this again with another parable and a visit from the family of Jesus.  Let’s look at Luke 8:16-21.

Parable of the Lamp

In verses 16-18 Jesus tells a parable that is very simple.  It is a picture of what it is like to receive the Word of God.  In the previous parable God’s Word is likened to a seed being broadcast onto soil.  Here God’s Word is likened to the lighting of a lamp in a room.  Now the lamps of those days would be oil lamps that would have a hole or a narrowing on one side and they usually had a wick.  Thus, just as God casts out seed, so here, God is the one who lights the lamp.  He does this by giving Truth to us.

Now a lamp needs oil in it in order to sustain a flame.  Throughout Scripture oil is a type of the Holy Spirit.  Now God is always working through His Spirit to prepare hearts to receive the Truth of God. In this sense God is supplying oil.  However if we do not retain this supply it will never fill us up in order to sustain a light.  Thus we need the Truth of God and the help of the Holy Spirit to ignite a light within us.  This will enable us to “see” the reality of life all around us.

Once a flame has begun, the light will immediately fill the room.  Light by its nature spreads out as far as it can.  Thus our life and its sphere of influence is like the room that the lamp is in.  We will not only be able to see better for ourselves, but anyone who intersects our life can benefit from this Truth of God burning in our life.

Now Jesus points out that the light is not lit in order to be hidden.  God has a purpose in putting this light in our life.  It is meant to reveal and make things known to us and those who are around us.  It is revelation by nature.  It is not enough to have good feelings towards God inside us.  When His light is operating in us, it is intended to be acted upon and thus give light to others.  If we fail to express God’s Truth in our life then we are contending with the very purpose of God.  Thus Jesus warns in verse 17, “For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be know and come to light.”  What God gives to me in secret devotion should be revealed by me in my life.  But, if not, then the day will come when it will be revealed against me at the judgment seat of Christ.

In both parables we notice this; if the Word is not taken care of it will be squelched or lost.  Here we must keep the oil level high enough, monitor the wick, and protect the flame.  If we do this then we will bear fruit by patiently guarding and nurturing the light of God’s Word in our life.  However, if not, even what light we have received will be lost.  How do I receive God’s Word?  It is an extremely valuable thing.  Without proper value, we will find ourselves losing the light that God intends us to have.

My Relationship To Jesus…

Now at this point word comes to Jesus that His mother and brothers are outside.  Although this seems to be an interruption, it ends up emphasizing the point that Jesus is making about what He is teaching them.  Luke most likely shares this in order to strengthen the point of our need to properly hear the Word.  Family is one of the closest relationships we can have.  Yet, the brothers of Jesus did not believe in Him.  This lack of believe and the strange things that Jesus was doing no doubt enabled them to stir up maternal fears in Mary.  “He’s crazy.  He’s going to get himself killed.  Why doesn’t he settle down and marry a good Jewish woman and start a family?”  In another place we are told that his family tried to even make him come home at one point.  Now, the point of this story is not that Jesus wouldn’t see his family.  No doubt, he did after he made his point.  But it presented a perfect time to emphasize what he had just been teaching.

Jesus basically says that those who hear the Word of God and do it are his mother and brother, i.e. family.  Thus our closeness to Jesus first depends upon hearing the word of God.  To be close to Jesus is to first be close to the Word of God.  We cannot divide it into parts we like and parts we don’t.  Neither can we make distinctions like only reading the words of Jesus as opposed to the apostles.  Some even try to go through the words of Jesus and determine what they think he really said.  This is not being in relationship with Jesus.  This is trying to manipulate the Word of God to our own thinking.  If I want to be close to Jesus then I need to receive all of God’s Word.

Yet, I must also put it into practice.  How I receive the Word is just as important as having it, if not more.   When we act upon the Truth its power is unleashed in our life and makes a difference for us and for those around us.  Now it would be easy to make this about simple obedience.  However, the relationship of a mother and brother are not those who must obey us.  Rather, this is about love.  Even if I don’t love what Jesus is saying, my love for him can help me to do the right thing anyways.  “Nevertheless, because You ask us to, we will throw our nets out again.”

In 2 Thessalonians 2:10 we are told that people perish because they refused to receive a love of the Truth.  Everyday God is trying to give us Truth and a love for it.  The problem is not on His end.  It is on ours.  This is a difficult Truth that many who have been inundated with God’s Word have never truly known Him because they refused to embrace it in their life.  Yet, many who have had precious little Truth embraced it whole heartedly.  May God help us to be that light which he has made us to be in this nation and this generation.