Encouragement From The Word, Uncategorized

The Light of the World

It’s a week before Christmas, and four days before the first day of winter here in the northern hemisphere. That means the days are short and the nights are long. Where I live, there have been many cloudy days lately, too, which have left some of us feeling like it might get dark by noon!

Perhaps this is one reason why many people – even irreligious people – put up beautiful displays of lights at this time of year. For example, there is someone who lives near me who does not go to church at all (despite repeated invitations!), but who has a gorgeous light display outside his home, to which he adds week by week. Is it for Christmas? Probably. Is it to bring some light in the darkness? Almost certainly.

Maybe these lights are symbols of Jesus himself, who came to be the Light in our darkness. That’s how I’m going to take it, anyway.

This may be a dark time of year for you, for one reason or another; look at the Christmas lights you see out in your neighbourhood, and give thanks that God saw fit to break into history in the form of Jesus, the Light of the world.

Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, ‘I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life’” (John 8.12, NLT).

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Encouragement From The Word

Seeing just enough

A lot of the conversations I’ve had with people lately, it seems, have centred around discernment.  For most of those with whom I’ve talked about it, the matter hasn’t been about new year’s resolutions or the like, but major life-direction issues.  These are followers of Jesus who genuinely want to be doing what God wants them to be doing, but at the moment, the way is not completely clear to them.  As I’ve prayed for them, the focus of my prayers have been that God would light the path for them so they would be able to see far enough ahead to keep walking the journey.young-womanthinking

That ought to be a good prayer for any of us!

As disciples of the Saviour of the world, our heart’s desire should always be to do what God wants us to do.  All of us, whether at a crossroads or not, can pray that the Lord will light the path enough for us to be able to see far enough ahead to keep walking.

When we camp in the summer, we don’t exactly “rough it”:  we have on-board plumbing facilities that save us having to get up in the middle of the night and traipse down to the “comfort station”.  (Who ever decided to call it that?  It’s usually intemperate and full of mosquitoes – hardly comfortable – but I suppose it beats Doing One’s Business out in the open.)  Anyway, because emptying the holding tank is not anybody’s favourite job, we try to use the “comfort station” as often as we can.  Even after the campfire has been doused, before bed, we’ll still walk the gravel path to the Necessary Room.

But it’s dark outside.  And campgrounds are not known for unnecessary lighting; after all, people who camp are trying to get away from all the lights, right?!

So, armed with a flashlight, off one goes.  But as you may have noticed happens with flashlights, they only illumine a certain distance in front of you when you hold them out.  Physics can explain all kinds of reasons why that’s the case, but it’s a demonstrable fact that if you hold a flashlight just at your feet – so you can see where you are – it won’t show you much beyond that.  And if you hold the flashlight so you can see a certain distance (which distance depends on the strength of your flashlight), the details of what’s going on at your feet will be harder to discern.

Even artificial light will only show us so much at a time; less so if we are going around a corner, since light, untreated, isn’t given to bending.  Perhaps because we are used to nearby light showing us only part of the path, God chooses to illumine only as much of the path of life as will enable us to take the next step on the journey.  Each step is a step of faith, and each step we take with the light of God’s discernment illumines a little more of the journey.

Whether you’re looking at a potentially life-changing discernment process or just enough light to be able to get through the rest of the day, trust the Lord to show you what you need to be shown for the next part of the journey.  In his care, you won’t be led astray.

O Lord, you are my lamp.  The Lord lights up my darkness” (2 Samuel 22.29, NLT).

Biblical Messages

CHRISTIANITY 101: Things Are Getting Better

Darkness can seem powerful.  When you walk through a dark room, it is as if inanimate objects take on a life of their own, and jump out in such a way as to cause you to stub your toe.  Our minds play tricks on us.  We think that some horrific creature is going to attack us.

We associate darkness with evil, and for good reasons:  a lot of violent crime takes place under cover of darkness.  Satan is known as the prince of darkness.  When we close our eyes, we see only darkness, knowing that there is a remote possibility that we will never open our eyes again.  Literature, even the Bible, practically equates darkness with evil.

But the funny thing about this terrible, awful darkness is that it can be dispelled very quickly.  A lot of darkness can be dispelled by a little bit of light.
“Better to light a candle than curse the darkness”, said the founder of Amnesty International, quoting a Chinese proverb.  “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle”, said St. Francis of Assisi.

People light candles at all sorts of events for various reasons, but almost all of them have this in common:  hope.  Where there is light, there is hope.  Where there is light, we know that things are getting better.

So it is for us:  the apostle Paul told the church in Ephesus nearly 2000 years ago, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord” (Eph 5.8a, NIV).  When we are light, we are getting better.

Based on Ephesians 5.8-20, you can listen to this message by clicking here.