Hiding The Light Of The World

After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. Luke 2:46-47

Was it difficult for Joseph and Mary to give Jesus a normal upbringing? Was he just one of the villager’s children? Scripture doesn’t say but as Michael Card encourages believers to read the Word with their God-given imaginations, we can wonder. In this one account from Luke, Jesus goes to the temple when He is twelve, asks a few questions, offers some insights in response, and the scholars are amazed.

How do you hide the Light of the world in a dark and oppressive Roman society? In Nazareth, there very well could have been stories among the villagers about Jesus. Though His first public miracle was at the wedding at Cana, did things happen earlier that could only have been explained by the word ‘miracle’? We’re not told but I find it interesting that Mary turned to Jesus at the wedding and casually asked if He would do something about the fact that the wine had run out.

This child, Jesus, was also divine. He was also the One who spoke the world into existence. How could His words have been common, even as One Incarnate? As He saw the broken world around Him, wouldn’t He have addressed it on more than one occasion? Surely He would have seen parents, brothers, and extended family members get sick. Surely there would have been demonic manifestations near Him in everyday life. I wonder if the presence of God, resident in Christ, caused cataclysmic reactions at various points in His childhood. It could be that God Himself veiled the eyes of those around the Christ child to protect His identity until it was time for Him to begin His ministry. But surely something extraordinary happened in the temple when Jesus was twelve. This we know ~ His divinity was on display that day.

What does all of this mean for us? When God gives a gift, there is no indication that it should be used indiscriminately. When God entrusts His disciple with spiritual abilities, they should remain inoperative until God says it’s time to use them. Thirty years of age is a long time for Jesus to wait to be released into public ministry. In God’s wisdom, there were thirty years of preparation for three years of ministry.

You and I may be aware of spiritual gifts that lie in waiting. We strain to exercise them and second-guess God’s wisdom of how long we must wait for the door of our calling to be opened. Could it be that God raises up a disciple for forty-five or fifty years before commissioning him/her to realize their usefulness? Could there be a lifetime of preparation for a few short years of ministry?  Could destiny follow decades of obscurity? In God’s economy, yes. John the Baptist was a flash of Light but never, according to Jesus, did anyone burn brighter.

Oh, the mystery of Your ways. For every place that I wait for You, I submit to Your wisdom and timetable. Amen


Why Can’t I See Him?

Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. Matthew 5:8

Purity and defilement are polar opposites. A pure heart sees God. A defiled heart does not. A pure heart has a cleansed conscience. A defiled heart has a seared one.

Can I achieve purity of heart with mere mental discipline? Not remotely. Some would say to just ‘think on the things’ that Paul advocates in Philippians. But those mental gymnastics don’t make me pure. Though they might help me stay pure in heart, purity is the gift God gives to me upon confession of sin.  A defiled heart is one that is deceived. To the degree that I have a history of unconfessed sin, I can be sure that deception has a hold on me and has rendered me partially blind. Christ won’t be someone I treasure because my vision is impaired.

When mentoring women, I take them through a life inventory. I explain that past sins, not yet confessed, bear consequences of spiritual blindness. Unholy spiritual legacies from family bloodlines will also pass on deception. Let me speak from personal experience. My father, and his parents, belonged to the Masonic Lodge. When he asked to be released from his vows, he initiated a freedom for my sister and me. If he had stayed in the Lodge, he would have passed on spiritual blindness since the belief system of the Lodge is rooted in Eastern religion. Our family did some significant spiritual work to fully renounce the ties of our ancestors. Just as they took vows, one at a time, they needed to be renounced one at a time. Some vague general prayer didn’t really hit the mark.

Paul addressed this subject another way. “To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.” Titus 1:15   My rudder, resident in my conscience, is corrupted by unbelief.

If I want to see God and remain pure in heart, I need to be tough on sin. I aim to be a sin-killer. Otherwise, I risk wearing foggy eyeglasses when I behold the face of God.

Bad eyesight can creep up on me. Expose my sin before it metastasizes. I want to see You in all of Your glory. Amen

When Satan Pours On The Heat

And when the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time. Luke 4:13

I find that temptation rarely comes on a good day. I would have more resources to resist. Temptation comes when I’m worn down, when I’ve lost a night’s sleep, when I’m grieving something, or when I’m stressed by life. That’s when the enemy pours it on. Is there a scripture to support that? Actually, yes.  Jesus went from his own beautiful baptism by John the Baptist to the desert for 40 days. His calling was followed by a season of testing. (Isn’t that the way it is!) When Jesus was alone, weathering the elements of an unforgiving wilderness, hungry, tired….that’s when Satan came with guns loaded. One temptation after another bombarded him to offer Jesus a way out of distress early.  Instead of persevering and waiting for God’s intervention and care, Satan wanted Him to take advantage of a counterfeit fix. All Jesus had to do was worship him.

We can also be sure that temptation will involve an offer of pain relief that encourages us to circumvent waiting on God. Jesus showed us what to do. He didn’t cave no matter how weakened He was. He quoted scripture and put the enemy in His place. He stayed the course and waited on God’s grace and comfort, and eventually, deliverance.

Today’s scripture is what concludes His wilderness temptation. When the devil had been unsuccessful at every juncture point, he departed from Jesus until another opportune time. When would that be? When Jesus would be weary from ministry, misunderstood by those who once loved Him, and betrayed by Judas. These would comprise the next opportunities for temptation.

If you are in a difficult period of life, beware of the one who doesn’t play fair. Satan loves to prey on the vulnerable. Listen for the roar of the pretend lion. Have a plan. Have some scripture picked out and ready so that when you want like everything to compromise, you can withstand the temptation. Every victory tones our spiritual muscles for the ‘next time.’

And when Your wilderness was over, You entered ministry with power. I want everything You promised. Don’t let me cave. Amen

Application, Not Theory.

So faith comes from hearing and hearing through the Word of Christ.  Romans 10:17

Life-saving advice means that what was shared with me was so valuable that I couldn’t wait to go away and apply it.  I have complete confidence in it.

One of the meanings for faith, in the Greek, is ‘to have complete confidence in something.’  The evidence of confidence is application.

Abraham had faith in God.  How do we know that?  He left his home village of Ur and took off for a new life.  Saul had faith after experiencing Christ on the road to Damascus.  How do we know that?  He went from hunting down Christians to becoming ‘the hunted.’  Peter and Andrew had faith after hearing Jesus’ call to them.  How do we know that?  They left their fishing business and their families to follow Jesus, even unto death.

Many today say that they believe in God; that he lived, died, and spoke the truth.  They equate belief with faith.  Yet, there has been no action that has proven their confidence.  Words are cheap without evidence of life-change.

Ultimately, this is not a devotional about unbelievers vs. believers.  It is more personal.  I must ask myself the question, “Do I have faith that Scripture is true?”  I answer ‘yes’ without even blinking.  But if that’s true, am I acting upon what I read without hesitation?  Am I one who looks for loopholes?  Do I rationalize why I haven’t obeyed yet?

Or, am I bold in my application?  Will I stand up for truth in a meeting where it will cost me something?  Will I take on a challenge God has led me to if I fear I’m not qualified?  Will I risk offending family or even a good friend by charting a different course from them?  Will I leave a group where I’m comfortable if God is telling me to join a different Bible study, Sunday school class, or even go to a different church?

Difficult obedience is the proof of faith.  “Faith comes by hearing”….yes, but faith is more than saying “I believe.”  The essence of faith is a confidence that bears proof through actions.

I believe You, Lord.  In everything You speak, I believe You.  Where do I need to act on it today?  Show me where I’ve been lying to myself.  Amen

If They Could Only See Jesus In Me, Then . . .

But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him. John 12:37 

My husband, Ron, is a seasoned Bible teacher. At the conclusion of almost every lesson, he prays for everyone before they leave. “Lord, help others see Jesus in us this week.” Now, he’s praying this with his eyes wide open, knowing the possible outcomes of what happens when unbelievers encounter Jesus in a believer. They are either warmed and move closer to Jesus or they are repelled and reject Him.

I do well to remember this as I’ve often possessed magical thinking. I’ve believed that if people could just see Jesus in me, they would love Him and want Him in their lives. But when Jesus was here in the flesh, John revealed that the opposite is true. When someone comes into contact with the Light of the world, the majority is offended by holiness. They feel exposed. Unclean. And then, angry.

This is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. John 3:19-20

Should I pray for others to see Jesus in me? Yes. I’m told to be Spirit-filled and Spirit-led. My life’s purpose is to glorify my Father in heaven by the way I live. But I should also be aware that if someone sees Jesus and feels the impact, and they are an unbeliever, I shouldn’t be surprised by a combustible reaction. The very presence of Light in me will be felt by children of darkness. The more oppressed the person, the more violent will be his reaction to me. A simple business exchange at the dry cleaners, grocery store, restaurant, can become contentious because there is a ‘darkness and light’ undercurrent happening. Often, what we chalk up to a mysterious ‘rub’ is really two kingdoms colliding and giving off sparks.

The more I am Your image bearer, the more I will be despised. Just like You. Re-align my expectations. Amen

Ones Who Feel Worthless

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. Luke 15:3-5

Do I value the things Jesus values? Do I love those whom Jesus loves? I can answer too quickly and say, ‘But, of course!’   But, really?

In this parable, the one of great value is the one who has strayed the farthest from home, the odd one of the hundred, the one no one is looking for. Quickly forgotten, he is left to question his own value as, over time, he realizes that no one is pursuing him. What an awful discovery as he looks over his shoulder and dreams of unconditional love calling his name from behind. How devastating to realize that the ninety-nine are happy without him. When he has depleted all his resources and realizes he has lost his way, how will he find his way back?

Jesus’ heart is for the one so far from the fold. Our Savior goes to any length to look for him in order to pick him up, embrace him closely, and carry him home.

It is easy for us to value the Christian-looking people. They are respectable in appearance. The one farthest from Christ can be one who repels us. Tattoos, piercings, Goth style clothing, a past that makes us blush, and language that downright intimidates, can send us trying to evangelize anyone but them. But these are the ones for whom Jesus came looking.

The heart of God is one that seeks ~ not waits ~ for sinners to come home. God sent Jesus to ‘seek and to save’ those who are lost. Is this how I feel about those far away from Christ? They need arms to carry them home. They need to discover that they are being sought after. If I don’t go looking, they will assume that God is no more interested than I since I call myself a Christian. I teach others how to perceive God and that is a sobering reality.

Who has wandered from the fold that has all but been forgotten? Is anyone looking for them? Can it be you? Will it be me?

A compassionate search party. Make us one as Your church. In Jesus’ name, Amen