The Light Shines

  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made;
without him nothing was made that has been made. 
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 
The light shines in the darkness, 
and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1:1-5 (NIV)

candle-in-the-darkAny idea how many times you have read these verses? I’ll bet it is a lot. I know it is for me. But this week something jumped out at me that I hadn’t seen before. Don’t you love it when that happens?

Take a look at the verbs. Was, was, was. Was, were, was, has been. Was, was… All past tense. Done. Finished. Until…

The light shines in the darkness

A present tense that indicates that it shines and does not quit shining.

…and the darkenss has not overcome it.

Is there darkness in your life? The light shines in that darkness and is not overcome. That brings amazing comfort to me, knowing that no matter how dark it gets, the light is there, and it will remain there, and it will not be overcome by the darkness.

This week, no matter what darkness you encounter, remind yourself of this truth and take courage:

The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.

In the Shadow of Thy Wings

  Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me,
For my soul takes refuge in Thee;
And in the shadow of Thy wings I will take refuge
Until destruction passes by.
Psalm 57:1

Is there destruction in your life? Another translation calls it “calamity.” The definition of the Hebrew word even covers things like evil desires and cravings and wickedness. What is there in your life that is threatening to overwhelm you… and what are you doing about it?

People have different responses to difficulties in their lives. “Destruction” wears many faces, from cancer to car trouble to addictions to relationships… the list is endless. But God’s manifold grace perfectly matches each challenge. The question, again, is not “what is the problem?” but “what are you doing about it?” The Psalmist runs for refuge under the shadow of God’s wings.

Does God have wings? I don’t know; I haven’t seen Him. He is Spirit, and yet He walks and talks and sees and hears and sits in the heavens and laughs and takes me by the right hand. He is a strong tower and a rock. He’s my shepherd.

When I think of Him being a strong tower, I feel safe. In Him I am protected. And when I think of Him being a rock, I know that He is immovable – a safe place to stand, unchanging. Policies and doctrines may change, but He does not. His word is settled forever – it is absolute truth, authoritative on our lives yesterday, today, tomorrow, and forever. And when I think about Him being my shepherd, I feel cared for, tended, managed, provided for.

hen-with-chicksIn a barnyard, when a hen senses danger, she clucks and her chicks run to her. She fluffs out her wings, and shelters them, and they are safe. I heard a story about a fire that roared through a barn and the area around it, destroying everything. The farmer discovered the devastation as he returned from town. As he was surveying the damage, saw his prize hen lying dead near the barn. He absently nudged at her body with his boot, and to his surprise and amazement, half a dozen little chicks scurried away as he turned the body over. They had taken refuge in the shelter of her wings until the destruction passed by.

When we know our God, and we know that all His intent toward us is for our good and His glory, it makes sense to run to Him when the circumstances of our lives are painful or confusing or challenging or grievous. In Him alone will we find comfort and strength and wisdom and peace and security. What chance would the chicks have had of surviving on their own – of putting out the fire? Of outrunning the blaze? Of finding a safe place of their own making? None. There was safety only under the shelter of the wings.

For us it is the same. We can’t defeat our problems and temptations, outsmart them, outrun them, or hide from them. They are a fact of life. There is safety only as we choose to take refuge in the shelter of His wings. There are several other verses that talk about taking refuge in the shelter of God’s wings (Psalm 61:4, Ruth 2:12, Psalm 36:7, Psalm 17:8), but one takes it a little further. What do you do while you are taking refuge under His wings?

For Thou has been my help,
And in the shadow of Thy wings
I sing for joy.
Psalm 63:7

Destruction is all around, and I’m singing for joy? Yes, because my soul is safe. Life may be unfair, hard, painful, confusing… or all of those things, but because, as Timothy said, “…I know whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day…” I can rejoice. And I will… will you?

What’s On Display in Your Life?

And as He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
John 9:1-3

diamond-morguefile3981269626626The first thought I had as I read this passage was about the theology of the disciples. Just what would be implied by a man being born blind because of his own sin? But I’m not going to chase that rabbit today – I’ll leave you to ponder it on your own!

What I do want us to think about, though, is this: What is on display in your life and my life? Jesus said that this man was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him. What has happened in our lives that displays the works of God?

Many times, as we (or others we know) experience difficult things, we are drawn into speculation about the cause – is this somehow God’s judgment upon us? Are the forces of darkness assaulting us? Have we not prayed hard enough? Or had enough faith? Or…? Or…??

Sometimes, certainly, there is an obvious cause and effect relationship between sin and circumstance – the prostitute ends up with AIDS; the heavy smoker develops lung cancer; the gossip ends up friendless.

But sometimes, there is no apparent cause – a beautiful teenage girl living a godly life is killed by a drunken driver; a young mother develops an incurable disease; a hurricane season brings devastation to central Florida…

We cannot be sure of all the forces at work in trying (or even in pleasant) circumstances, but we can be sure of this one thing: God is sovereign, and works all things according to His good pleasure. Surely this man’s blindness was not a “good” thing, an easy thing, a pleasant thing. And yet it was a reality because it was a vehicle for the works of God to be displayed.

The word “displayed” translates a Greek word that means to show openly, to make manifest, to make conspicuous. If you trace the root backwards, you get the sense of “shining forth” and “giving light.” When a jeweler displays diamonds, he illuminates them on a black velvet cloth. Against the black background, their beauty and brilliance is clearly seen – much more than if they were set on a white or clear background.

In a similar way, I believe, when the world inspects us against the dark background of affliction in our lives, they should be seeing the brilliance and fire of God’s grace and mercy and love and sufficiency… Is that what is on display in your life?

I will give thanks to the Lord with all of my heart;
I will tell of all Thy wonders.
I will be glad and exult in Thee;
I will sing praise to Thy name, O Most High.
Psalm 9:1-2


Have You Burned Any Houses Lately?

fireA strange question, I know, but stick with me here.

First a little history. In ancient times, when a band of warriors would conquer a group of people and take them captive, they would often burn the homes and the fields to insure that the new captives would have nothing to come back to should they try to return home.

We have an idiom that reflects the same idea… burning our bridges behind us. The imagery is that we have made an irreversible decision, and there is no turning back. It brings to my mind the Paul’s admonition to the Romans to

…make no provision for the flesh,
to gratify its desires.
Romans 13:14

And it is the Hebrew word picture for “repent.” The pictures formed by the letters say “Destroy the house – leave nothing behind.”

The teaching I’ve heard on repentance has primarily focused on the act of turning away from something and moving towards God. But the pull of my sin is strong, stronger than the good intentions of my heart. And unless I take measures to insure that I won’t go back, my ability to persevere in my decision is iffy.

For example, I can determine not to eat cookies anymore, but unless I throw that half eaten sleeve of Oreos lurking in the cupboard away, I am “making provision for the flesh” in case I decide I want to eat them later.

I’m sure you can come up with your own examples.

So the question remains… Have you burned any houses lately? As you look back over your recent repentance, what have you done to make sure you don’t return to your sin? What bridges have your burned? And if you haven’t taken steps to help you persevere, what does that say about your commitment to change?

I’m not asking you to reveal intimate details here, but I do want you to consider where you might have a house that needs to be burned.

Soul Food

The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite,
But the stomach of the wicked is in want.
Proverbs 13:25

feeding-the-birdsEvery time I hear about, or think about starting that practice of reading a chapter from the book of Proverbs each day, it is in the middle of the month and I tell myself, “Maybe next month.” But I always forget to start. So on Tuesday I decided to begin, even though it wasn’t the first of a month. I started on Chapter 13.

Now if you’ve been with me any length of time, you know that I’ve been on a journey to honor God with my eating for a long time – sadly, not always consistently.  And so I thought it was interesting that the verse above was the one that closed out the chapter.

After 24 verses contrasting the righteous with the wicked and foolish, it ends with a verse about eating. What a coincidence… Not!

God is so faithful to keep drawing my attention back to the things He is trying to teach me. Sometimes I think I have spiritual ADHD. If so, His Word is better than any Ritalin!

As I poked around in that verse, I saw the first part has an alternate translation:

The righteous eats to the satisfaction of his soul

And I love that. Not that the righteous person eats until his soul is satisfied, or that eating itself satisfies his soul, but that one way his righteousness is displayed is that as his eating glorifies God, his soul is satisfied.

And in that we see the premise of “Made to Crave” by Lysa Terkeurst demonstrated. When I try to satisfy my soul with food, I will always crave more. Food cannot satisfy my soul. And when I try to satisfy my soul with food, I am wicked – guilty at least of idolatry, and probably rebellion and pride, too.

Satisfy my soul with Yourself, O God. Feed me with the Bread of Life and quench my thirst with the Living Water. Grant that my heart would not feel deprived but satisfied with boundaries placed on my eating for my good. Help me turn to You and not to food when I am lonely or sad or anxious, so that the testimony of my life also is that I eat to the satisfaction of my soul.

Is Time Speeding Up?

clockDoes it seem to you that time is speeding up? It certainly seems that way to me.

When I was young, I can remember the “old folks” saying that it seemed like time was slipping away at a faster rate, and the general understanding was that as you aged, time seemed to go faster.

Someone explained it in terms of fractions… when you are ten, a year is one-tenth of your life – a substantial chunk. When you are 50, a year is a much smaller piece, relatively speaking, just one-fiftieth. So it makes sense that our perception of time would be that it is passing more quickly.

But today, even the youngsters are saying how fast time is passing.

And if you Google the phenomenon, there seems to be scientific evidence that time is speeding up. Interesting.

But what is really fascinating to me is what the Bible says about it. Recently I discovered a different perspective, and I’d like to share it with you. As you think about how it seems like you never have enough time to get things done, how it seems like you used to get more done in the same 24 hours, read this verse…

Unless those days had been cut short,
no life would have been saved;
but for the sake of the elect
those days will be cut short.

Matthew 24:22

In the past, I had always thought of verses like these (and there are others that speak of the end coming quickly) just in terms of the end being closer than it was previously. And that is true. But reading them again from the perspective of time itself speeding up does make one wonder…

The great day of the Lord is near,
near and hastening fast;
Zephaniah 1:14

As the man with the sandwich sign points out, “The end is near! Are you ready?”

Justification vs. Forgiveness

If we say that we have no sin,
we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.  
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous
to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
If we say that we have not sinned,
we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.
1 John 1:8-10

waterfallI am here to tell you today that I am the queen of justification. I am quick to make excuses for myself, for my sin, and slow to repent.

There is a “good” kind of justification, where God removes my sin and its penalty and counts me righteous through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. And while I am justified in that sense, that is not the justification I am talking about.

I’m talking about the ugly kind, where I make excuses for my sin, obviously not seeing it as He sees it because I am, as John so clearly states, deceived. So deceived, in fact, that by my actions I am calling Him a liar. Not good. Very not good!

My attempt at self-justification began several months ago, and here is what I discovered – not that I set out to discover anything, of course… Self-justification is a poor substitute for His justification. Self-justification is hard work, and the harder you work at it, the deeper under your sin you bury yourself. God’s justification cannot be earned, but is freely given, and removes the weight of your sin from you.

Through the persistent conviction of the Holy Spirit, I was able to face my sin, repent, and take the first baby steps of obedience. And here is where I lose it. Within 15 minutes of my act of obedience, He lavished me with evidence of His forgiveness in a very tangible way. He is amazing.

The lesson for me is that forgiveness, even though it marches me straight through the nastiness of dealing with my sin, is infinitely better than juggling the weight of trying to justify myself. When it comes to self-justification vs. forgiveness – I want forgiveness every time.

Lifting Up a Standard

When the enemy shall come in like a flood,
the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.
Isaiah 59:19 (KJV)

Love-Heart-in-SandThe teaching I’ve heard on this verse (which is way different, by the way, in the more modern versions like NASB, NIV and ESV) have explained the “standard” as a flag or banner.

In ancient times, when battles were waged in person, with one body of warriors clashing with another, a flag or banner was raised to rally the forces, to give them courage, spur them onward to victory. And that is the imagery I’ve heard used for this verse.

Yesterday, however, a friend of mine (thank you Jenni Wilson) shed a fresh light on this verse.

Recently we (Believers) have seen wickedness and impurity rising “like  flood” all around us. In legislation, and being taught and approved in the schools, in the military, in the workplace, and yes, even in Christian organizations and the church.

Practices that were formerly openly recognized as immoral and sinful, now proclaimed as normal and good. Lifestyles that once brought shame now being worn as badges of honor.

The enemy has indeed come in like a flood.

But God through His Holy Spirit is lifting up a standard. Not a flag or banner, but an authoritative measure of what is good and right and appropriate.

His standard is purity and holiness, and He will not wink at behaviors that are sinful. He has not changed. Immorality is still offensive to Him.

I’m not a prophet (nor do I play one on television). But I truly believe that a line is being drawn, and we are being called to choose sides. Are we in Christ, counting the cost to live as He calls us to live, or are we outside of Him, ordering our lives according to the standards of the world?

“O Afflicted One…”

“For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake,
But My lovingkindness will not be removed from you,
And My covenant of peace will not be shaken,”
Says the Lord who has compassion on you.
”O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted,
Behold, I will set your stones in antimony,
And your foundations I will lay in sapphires.”
Isaiah 54:10-11

stormcloudsThere are seasons in our lives when we are afflicted and those around us know it. The foundations of our world are shaken – death, betrayal, illness, job loss… catastrophe with any face – and we experience God’s love through the hands and hearts of others coming along side. For a time, we are supported and cared for and encouraged until a sense of normalcy returns and we once again regain our footing.

For some, though, the crisis becomes the norm, and over time the support dwindles away. For others, there are storms and battles nobody ever sees, and there is no comfort from without. And for still others it is the daily struggle to find solid footing in the shifting sands of changing circumstances – trying to “keep all the plates spinning.” The rock of God’s Word, however, provides both unparalleled support and unsurpassed comfort.

The comparisons in these verses are interesting to me. Mountains are compared with His lovingkindness, and hills with His covenant of peace… It is those huge things, the things we take as “givens” in our lives, that may be removed. There are no guarantees when it comes to health and relationships and standard of living and “inalienable rights”… the only guarantees have to do with God. And they are very personal. He doesn’t say, “I’ll always love everybody.” No. He says, “My lovingkindness will not be removed from YOU.” We tend to feel secure and at peace when our circumstances are stable – but that is an illusion. Circumstances are never stable, and it is only in God’s unfailing love that there is security.

Hills represent to me pleasant beauty – neither the overwhelming complexity and towering strength of mountains, nor the monotonous constancy of flatlands. These areas of our lives may be shaken – things that are not foundational, but that make life go smoothly, like tires that don’t go flat and plumbing that doesn’t fail – but His promise of enduring peace will never be shaken. Even with the uncertainties of everyday life, we can have His peace.

And who is it that is giving this promise? It is “the Lord who has compassion on you.” The word that translates compassion refers to a “deep love, usually of a superior for an inferior, which is rooted in some natural bond.” This is not pity for some worthless and undeserving wretch, but rather God’s deep sense of identification with our pain and willingness to shoulder it with and for us. And again, He doesn’t call Himself, “the Lord who is holy,” or “the Lord who is a consuming fire,” or “the Lord of all the earth” – He calls Himself, “the Lord who has compassion on YOU.” It is out of His intimate, tender, passionate love for YOU that He provides this assurance.

Things are going smoothly in my life at the moment, and yet when I read, “O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted…” my heart cried, “Yes! Yes! That’s me!” And this is the comfort He gave…

“Behold, I will set your stones in antimony,
And your foundations I will lay in sapphires.”

…Commentary on that was sparse, but this is what I pulled together:

    • “Behold” – take note; pay attention; watch what I’m doing!
    • “set” – to stretch out; to cause to yield
    • “stones” – consecration
    • “antimony” – a hard, brittle, lustrous, silver-white, crystalline material. One of its uses is in the manufacture of flame-proofing compounds.
    • “your foundations I will lay” – a metaphor for “cannot be moved”
    • “sapphires” – blue stone; used in the throne of God

Because we belong to Him, we have this promise. Count on it. Watch for it. Pay attention to see what He is doing. He will take those things you have consecrated to Him and spread them out and cause them to be fruitful. He will cause them to endure through the flames of purification and shine brightly. He will make your faith unmovable, and it will be precious, like the very throne of God.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds against the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.

On Christ, the solid Rock I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

Living Water

Thursday evening we had our first “Let’s Faithbook” meeting, and I was thrilled at the response. Fifteen beautiful ladies spent the evening soaking in the Word and allowing the Living Water to wash away any barriers to creativity. There was laughter and tears and fun and friendship, and we are looking forward to meeting again this next Thursday. We’d love it if you could join us if you are in the Central Florida area — just contact me and let me know you’re coming!

Our topic on Thursday was the Living Water. Among other things, water does three things for us physically. It refreshes, cleanses, and purifies.

While it varies from person to person, and changes as we age, the human body is more than half water. But since we aren’t a “closed system,” we have to continually replenish our supply. When we need water, our body signals us by becoming thirsty. And drinking water refreshes us.

ColeusI remember when I first discovered Coleus plants. I loved their vibrant beautiful colors and got several for my front porch. I was aghast the next day when I came home from work and they looked completely dead, not just droopy, but wilted completely over. My friend said, “they need water!” And a few hours after watering them, they were back to their perky beauty. Amazing. Water certainly refreshes.

When we are dirty on the outside, like after a long morning of yard work, water cleanses us. When we have cut our finger or skinned our knee, water washes away what shouldn’t be there so we can dress the wound. It isn’t enough to just brush off the dirt, or cover it over with something clean – we need water to cleanse us.

And on the inside of us, it is water that dissolves the toxins that accumulate in our cells and organs, and helps the body eliminate them. It purifies us on the inside. In fact, water is known as the universal solvent because it dissolves more substances than anything else.

Physically, water refreshes, cleanses and purifies us.

And it does the same thing spiritually.


We know that Jesus is the Living Water. And Jesus is the Word. The Living Water, then, is also the Word. And we are refreshed, cleansed and purified by the Living Water, the Word.

Physically, if we don’t replenish the water our body needs, we suffer a condition known as dehydration. We may experience headache, dizziness, confusion, fatigue, weakness, and many other symptoms including, ultimately, death.

Just as we experience these physical symptoms from extreme lack of water, so we exhibit spiritual symptoms when we have a radical lack of the Living Water. Let’s look at just those few characteristics of dehydration and think about the spiritual application.

Headache – The pain of what is wrong on a physical level consumes our concentration and keeps us from doing the things we are called to do.

Confusion –  We are unable to think clearly, to make good decisions, to discern truth from error. We are easily swayed by the faulty logic of the world.

Dizziness – It is difficult to maintain our balance. It becomes easier to fall or get pushed down. We lose touch with absolute truth and our environment seems to spin out of control.

Fatigue – We are weary and easily overwhelmed. We give in easily to pressure. Being patient and kind takes way more effort that we can manage. We have no ability to persevere.

Weakness – it takes strength and stamina to resist evil, and even to flee from it. If we are weak, it is more likely that evil will triumph in our lives.

Death – Ultimately without water, we will physically die. Spiritually, sin is death, and without the washing and regeneration of the Word, the Living Water, we remain dead in our trespasses and sins.

It is reported that John Bunyan, author of The Pilgrim’s Progress, had this written inside the front cover of his Bible:

“Either sin will keep you from this Book,
or this Book will keep you from sin.”

How is your thirst level for the Living Water? Are your refreshed, cleansed, and purified, or are you experiencing the effects of dehydration? What, if anything, is keeping you from “this Book?”