Fully Alive in the Light

Fully Alive in the Light
“In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.” (Joh_1:4)
Jesus is the Light of the World. He came into this world as a light shining in darkness, and brought us the one true revelation of God; showing us the love of the Father, and changing our world forever. But, He means for us to take this personally.
John says, “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men” (Joh_1:4). One translation puts it this way, “The Word gave life to everything that was created, and His life brought light to everyone.” This means even you and me!
And, remember from our previous postings, the light He brought to us is “the revelation of God’s love.” God wants us to be fully alive in the light of His love.
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Jesus is the way, that we might be saved; the truth, that we might be sure; and the life, that we might be satisfied! Practically speaking this means that when you open your heart to Jesus, His life will enter fully into you and bring the revelation of God’s love throughout your whole world – changing everything. Saving you; securing you; and satisfying you!
“I once was blind, but now I see!” the man shouted after Jesus healed him.
“And what is it that you see dear brother?”
“I see the love of God everywhere I look!”
May the Prayer of Paul the Apostle be answered in each of our lives:
“I pray that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph_3:16-19).
Or, if I may sum it up in four words — “Let there be light!”

new post since my massive heart attack

Arise! Shine!
“Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.” (Isa_60:1)
It is the dawn a of a new day, filled with opportunities to tell others far and wide of God’s amazing Grace. And I wonder if there might be a word from the Lord to boost us on our way as we venture forth in faith.
What might the Lord have to say to us at this significant moment? What word might He speak to carry us both forward and upward with a faith unfailing, a hope undying, and a love unending?
What could He say that would lift us above the darkening days of winter, both natural and spiritual, and give us a warming vision that sees beyond our times, so that we may patiently prevail until the chill thaws and Spring is once again upon us?
I think I know.
And it’s not new; the words have been with us for sometime now, like a perpetual torch passed down through the ages to enlighten any darkened day, and bouy any flagging spirit.
“Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.” (Isa_60:1)
This is a word filled with great powers – the power of light and glory; the power of faith and courage. This is a word that stirs us to higher things – “Arise!” It is a word that summons us to a nobler outlook – “Shine!”
This word infuses us with a faith to believe and take hold of what we may not be able to actually see or feel – “Your light has come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you!”
And this is a word that dares us to a life of action born of a courageous faith. Notice the specific order of the words, “Arise. Shine.” The implication is that if we will do the first part, “Arise!” – then the Lord will see to it that the second part occurs, “Shine!”
And it’s there that faith and courage must respond. We might prefer it to say, “Shine, and then Arise.” You know, “Lord, if You will light me up, THEN I will take a stand and serve You.”
“No,” the Lord courteously replies, “You take a stand and serve Me, and THEN I will light you up!”
In other words, “Arise! Shine!”
This is what I believe the Lord is saying for this new day. This is what the Lord is saying to you….and to me. Over the next several days I will develop this theme with one thought in mind — helping you experience the presence of God; to hear His voice and find the power to do what He is telling your to do. “Arise! Shine!”

A Week in God’s Presence

August 18
A Week in God’s Presence
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen!” (2Co_13:14)
Have you ever experienced the Extravagant Love of God?
Webster’s defines extravagant as “exceeding the limits of reason or necessity; lacking in moderation, balance, or restraint; profuse and lavish.” Have you ever encountered God’s Presence in such measure that He blew your doors off with just how much He loves you?
Zephaniah the prophet gave us a glimpse at this extraordinary, extravagant God. “The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing” (Zep_3:17).
you know that God wants to overwhelm you with an outpouring of His extravagant love? He wants you to know that even now, despite what you think about yourself, He rejoices over you with joy? He rests in His love for you? He joys over you with singing?
And did you know that the surest way for you to truly experience this extravagance is to spend quality time with real Christians? Hear me carefully – I’m not talking about “church-goers” as much as I’m talking about “Christ-followers.” The two are not always the same.
When you are in the company of a gathering of mere “church-goers” you will be surrounded with legalism, opinion, criticism, judgment and debate. But when you are in the midst of true “Christ-followers” your life will be flooded with extraordinary expressions of God’s extravagant love. You will be supported, believed in, upheld, defended, empowered, and unleashed to pursue God’s highest and best purposes for your life.
In other words, you will experience God’s Presence – and never be the same. To sum it up – spend quality time in God’s Word, and a quantity of time with quality people; do this and God will be with you in extraordinary and extravagant ways.

The Genius of Good Grief

The Genius of Good Grief

“Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way.” (1Pe_4:1, The Message)

Remember the old country western classic — “I beg your pardon; I never promised you a rose garden. Along with the sunshine, there’s got to come a little rain some time.”

I can’t help but wonder if there are times when Jesus pick up a trusted six string and belts this one out from the clouds of glory to His “naming-claiming-gabbing-grabbing kids.”

“Oh hallelujah!” we say, when things are going great and good. The stock market is up and increasing everyday; blessings abound in every part of life; no problems, no worries, not setbacks, no struggles, no grief.

“Glory to God in the highest returns on my investments!”

But wait a minute. Didn’t Jesus say that in this world we would have trouble. Yes, and that He would be with us through it all. Sometimes the Lord opens the back door on our happy estate and all sorts of things start going wrong. It’s at that moment we discover where our faith and affections really stand.

Sometimes grief is a good thing. And the genius of good grief is that, once it trims away the fat and fluff of pretentious and superficial living, we become more able to live out our days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what we thought we wanted.

The Unflappable Champion

The Unflappable Champion

“He gathered up His courage and steeled Himself for the journey…” (Luk_9:51, The Message)

There are some things that require little effort, and yield small results. Many people content themselves to spend their days in just such trivial pursuit. Will you settle for being one of them?

F. W. Boreham wrote, “There is no intellectual stimulant so intoxicating as the formation of a noble purpose, the conception of a sudden resolve, the making of a great decision.”

Friends, we are partakers of an upward call, and so we strain constantly against the downward pull of lesser things. “I am doing a great work,” Nehemiah said, “why should the work stop while I come down to you?” (Neh_6:3). Thus did he silence those who tempted him to ease off from his quest.

The truly heroic moments in life demand something far more than a casual commitment. Christ Himself set his face to Jerusalem, and resolved to go the full length of God’s will. He gathered up His courage and steeled Himself for the journey. He was, and forever will be the Unflappable Champion. And we have been called to follow in His steps.

There is talk these days of vision. But vision is much more than a good idea that stirs the soul to temporary endeavors. Vision is the ability to see it, the faith to believe it, the courage to do it, and the hope to endure until it happens. Take any of these components away and vision fails. Each is vital, and indispensable.
has a way of summoning our hearts to rise to the calling God has placed on our lives. It also supplies us with the grace to pace ourselves to go the full distance, regardless of the difficulties that await us. Courage is the mental and moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear or difficulty.

The journey we have undertaken as followers of Christ demands all the courage we possess. It requires of us a steely, unwavering resolve to meet whatever seeks to delay us, defeat us, detour us, or deny us – to meet such things with a faith that says, “Nevertheless!” Courage is one of the distinguishing marks of true faith.

God’s Spirit has given us an ingrained capacity to face the strain and stress of faithfulness with fortitude, patience, and joy. Thus did Jesus walk up Calvary’s mountain one dreadful morn, and there face unflinching the dark trinity of Satan, Sin, and Death. And there, on a hill far away, our Lord did win a resounding victory. And, be sure of this one fact – He did it for you!

That victory is now yours. Lay claim to it by faith, and you, like Jesus, can gather up your courage and steel yourself for the journey of a lifetime.

Beautiful vase

Behold, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luk_17:21).

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away there lived a very poor man in a shabby house in a run-down neighborhood on the wrong side of the tracks in a economically depressed town, in a state overrun with poverty and need. Things weren’t looking good.

One day as he was rummaging about the piles of items discarded from the local flea market, tossed aside because nobody wanted any of them, something caught his eye. It was a vase, and to his amazement, it was unbroken despite the obvious abuse it had suffered; unbroken, and unmarred. In fact, it was beautiful, even more so when contrasted by all the trashy surroundings.

He took it home, cleaned it up and placed it upon the mantle in his dingy living room, and then sat and simply stared at it. Day after day he would spend hours gazing upon the very rare and most beautiful vase. One day, as he was intently focused upon the vase, he realized how cluttered his mantle was with other things, and how stained the wall was with the grime of poverty. So he cleared the junk off the mantle, and put a fresh coat of paint upon the wall. That simple decision caused the vase to stand out in even greater beauty, for now his entire wall took on the look of a beautiful painting, and he found such joy in gazing upon it all.

Then one day as he entered his living room he noticed how worn was the carpet, and how tattered were the furnishings. He pulled the carpet out and uncovered a beautiful hardwood floor; he cleaned and recovered the furnishings, transforming the look of the entire room. This is turn led him to slowly began renovating the rest of his home. Once finished, he delighted in the comfort of his beautiful abode.

But then he noticed that the yard was overgrown with weeds, and filled with junk; the fence was broken down and the outside of his home looked weathered and wasted. So he set upon making the needed repairs and cleaning up the yard. Soon, his home became the talk of the neighborhood, for it brought such a sense of hope to all those around him. Before long the other homeowners began making repairs upon their houses and yards, such that the entire neighborhood transformed and became the talk of the town.

Yet a little while longer and the town itself began to change; cleaning the trash off the streets, repairing broken windows and repainting faded homes; refurbishing businesses and rekindling dreams. At length, the town became the garden spot of the State. Tourists came from far and wide to see the beauty of the transformed town. Upon seeing it, they each went home inspired to make changes in their own homes.

Meanwhile, the man sat happily in his living room and looked upon that rare and most beautiful vase, blessed that his life had been transformed by beauty.

Jesus said that kingdom of God was within us; that the royal, ruling power of God was at work transforming our lives from the inside out. This is that very rare and most beautiful vase, and the power of its influence is truly extraordinary!

 

Shining bright in the darkest hour

Shining Bright in the Darkest Hour

“…among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Php_2:15).

The prophet Daniel wrote, “the people who know their God shall prove themselves strong and shall stand firm and do great exploits; they shall prevail valiantly” (Dan_11:32). The backdrop for this splendid display of moral courage and social action was a time when deceit and flattery from political leaders had seduced the mindless masses into settling for a meaningless existence.

That’s when the people of God shine the brightest – “blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Php_2:15).

Is it possible, my friend, that God is summoning you out of the comfort of a convenient life into a contest for truth and justice; an epic battle against the encroaching powers of darkness, which are stalking our homes, our schools, our courts, our market places, and our churches? Is it possible that you’re the one who can stop the plague?

All it takes is the right man or woman at the right time.

Arthur Hugh Clough said it best in his little poem —

“Say not, ‘The struggle naught availeth; labor and the toils are vain. enemy shrinks not, nor faileth. things have been, so they remain.’ if hopes be dupes, then fears be liars. may be, in yon smoke concealed, comrades chase even now the fliers,, but for you, possess the field.”

part matters far more than perhaps you may even realize; for you could be the voice that turns the battle, the life that makes the difference, that light that shines brightest in the darkest hour.

 

Set Your Sight for Higher Ground

Set Your Sight for Higher Ground

“When Jesus saw His ministry drawing huge crowds, He climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to Him, the committed, climbed with Him. Arriving at a quiet place, He sat down and taught His climbing companions.” (Mat_5:1-2 The Message)

Crowds always collect around events and individuals that are curious or exciting. Jesus was all that and more, and so naturally His ministry drew large crowds. But He knew that crowds are fickle. So when He saw His ministry attracting large crowds — He climbed a hillside.

This was a decisive movement upward; an intentional maneuver sure to root out those who were only looking for the easy way, the free ride. And as the Lord expected, the crowd dispersed. You see, crowds don’t climb hillsides.

What happened next is what the Lord was after all along. Those who were committed climbed with Him. Is that you? When the crowds fade away, and following Jesus is no longer the popular thing to do, or the easy thing to do — will you still be His climbing companion?

If so, He will take you to the summit!

The scripture tells us that we are “partakers of a heavenly calling” (Heb_3:1). It is “the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Php_3:14). It is the call of God upon our lives that makes mediocrity unacceptable. The word mediocrity literally means “halfway up a mountain.” Are you going to settle for only following Christ halfway? I didn’t think so.

Set your sight for higher ground, my friend. And one day heaven will be your next stop.

How Puny is the Ping

How Puny is the Ping

“Spiritually alive, we have access to everything God’s Spirit is doing, and can’t be judged by unspiritual critics.” (1Co_2:15, The Message)

“James, I have a word from the Lord for you,” the caller said with resounding confidence, “and I’ve phoned to give it to you.”

As a pastor I had received calls like this from time to time and generally found them to be little more than well-intentioned expressions of the caller’s personal thoughts or feelings for me, couched in the language of spiritual revelation so as to add weight to it. I would always listen quietly and thank them when they finished.

Or, there were those few occasions when someone would call to blast me to kingdom come with a scathing rebuke, which they were commanded by the Lord God Almighty to speak, yea verily. I quickly learned how to screen those calls out.

But this call was different. It was from a close and trusted friend who has a track record of walking with the Lord, and hearing His voice; a man who rises early in the morning and spends great lengths of time in prayer; a man of significant influence, whom the Lord has used to touch many, many people with the Gospel. He had my undivided attention.

“OK,” I replied, “what is it?”

To this day I will never forget his answer, for it truly was a word from the Lord; a word which I needed to hear at that moment, for I was undergoing severe personal attack in the form of criticism and outright slander. I was being lied about, ridiculed for my beliefs, and spoken against by opponents who held me in contempt – you know, a typical week in the life of many pastors. So my phone-a-friend had my undivided attention.

“Ping,” he said; holding the sound out like a sustained musical note.

“Ping?” I answered, in a blunt, one syllable monotone reply.

“No,” he graciously answered, “Ping,” once again making the sustained sound, rather than simply saying the word. And then he did it again, “Ping.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” I asked, and my friend replied, “That’s the sound of a twenty-two caliber bullet bouncing off the hull of a nuclear submarine. Ping.”

He paused for a moment and then said, “The Lord wants you to know that these attacks of criticism against you are nothing more than that – puny and ineffective cheap shots that cannot penetrate the hull of your ship. They can only annoy and distract. Stay the course and do what the Lord has directed you to do.”

That was a meaningful moment for me. I was being tossed about in my soul with mounting frustrations – wanting to answer in self-defense and set the record straight, but being restrained from doing so by the grace of God.

The storm has long passed and, like any storm, has left much debris in its wake. And with regularity someone will pick up a piece of the trash that was tossed about and take it as current news, and then use it to hammer me once again.

Funny, though, I seldom even hear the ping anymore…

The Holy Spirit Giving Life

The Holy Spirit Giving Life

It is the Spirit who gives life . . . [God] also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (Joh_6:63 and 2Co_3:6)

The Lord’s new covenant of grace is a covenant of the Spirit: “ [God] also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant . . . of the Spirit.” Any approach to God other than by the Spirit results in spiritual deadness.

People need life, initially and continually. We need it initially, because all of us began spiritually dead due to our sin and guilt. “And you . . . were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh . . . and were by nature children of wrath” (Eph_2:1-3). The only remedy for such spiritual death is spiritual life. “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Eph_2:4-5).

People also need life continually, “for the letter kills.” If we were left to our best efforts after we were given new life in Christ, we would be struggling under a human performance bondage of rules and regulations. That is spiritually deadening.

Jesus came to earth to offer people fullness of life. “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (Joh_10:10). Jesus taught that if we looked to Him for our spiritual nutrition, we would find ongoing life. “And Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life” (Joh_6:35). Jesus did not refer to Himself as a leader establishing a new religion. Rather, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Joh_14:6). When the early disciples were freed from prison, they were not told to recruit members to a movement. Instead, they were instructed to “Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life” (Act_5:20).

The life Jesus came to provide is His life expressed in and through us: “Christ who is our life” (Col_3:4). That life produces a lifestyle marked by His love, His joy, His peace, His wisdom, His courage – – and whatever else is of His holy character. The new covenant of His grace holds forth this life, and the Holy Spirit delivers that life into humble, trusting hearts. “It is the Spirit who gives life.”

Lord Jesus,You are my life. I have no other hope or source for finding true life. I praise You for Your patience with me when I try to produce a Christlike life by rules and regulations. Lord, just as You gave me life initially, please flood me now with new measures of Your life, as I humbly rely upon Your Spirit, Amen.