Sunday, November 24, 2013

How Bright is Your Light?


This past week I was having a discussion with a friend of mine and she told me about a satellite image taken at night of the earth that she had seen.  She explained that countries in Europe and America were lit up like a Christmas tree but places in China and North Korea were completely dark.  It was no surprise at all that those countries would be light and dark. 

As my friend explained the picture she saw, I couldn’t help but wonder . . . 
If we were to take a spiritual satellite image of our world, where would it be light and dark?  Would the light and darkness be switched?  Would North Korea be ablaze and America and Europe be dark as night? 


What if we were to take a spiritual image of my church?  Would people be blinded by the light of many believers gathering together or would our light even be apparent?


If anyone claims, “I am living in the light,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is still living in darkness. Anyone who loves another brother or sister is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble. But anyone who hates another brother or sister is still living and walking in darkness. Such a person does not know the way to go, having been blinded by the darkness. 1 John 2.9-11


And I took it a little further when I read this passage . . . I wondered how bright my light would be.  Would it be glowing brightly enough for others to see or  for a satellite to pick up on? Or would it be a dull radiance that was barely perceived? 


In the verses just before these John talks about knowing God.


“If I say, “I know God,” but don’t obey Him, I’m not living in the truth.” (I’m living in darkness - my addition) 1 John 2.4 


I believe many of us know ABOUT God.  We know about God like we know about our favorite actor, singer or band member.  We’ve prided ourselves on all the facts and statistics we know about God, we’ve loaded up on knowledge about Him through Bible studies, sermons and books about the Bible but have neglected to develop an intimate, personal, knowing relationship with Him.  We can spout verses, quote challenging messages but neglect to live in obedience; living self-centered, self-serving lives.  And our light?  It isn’t light at all – it’s really darkness.


Jason Crabb wrote a song ("Living Life Upside Down") that has some really haunting lyrics.   

What if we’ve fallen into the bottom of the well
Thinking we’ve risen to the top of a mountain
What if we’re knocking at the gates of hell
Thinking we’re heaven bound
And What if we spend our lives thinking of ourselves
When we should have been thinking of each other
What if we reach up and touch the ground
To find we’re living life, upside down

What if we think we’re shining brightly but we’re really living in darkness? 


How can we really know?  John tells us . . . by evaluating the way we live.  Is our life just meaningless words or are we living what we say we believe? 


When we live in obedience our light will shine so brightly that the darkness won’t be able to contain it! 
How bright is your light?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Take Your Cue from Fear and Trust God

I spent the first eight and a half years of my life in the beautiful state of Alaska.  My family lived fifty miles from the nearest town and a mile down a dirt road, off the Alaska Highway.  We had those old crank phones.  We never locked our doors.  About the only thing I feared was coming up on a bear while playing in the woods.  It truly was a wonderful place to grow up!

However, that all changed when we packed up our belongings and moved to California.  We settled into a tiny home on a busy street with cars roaring up and down at all hours of the day and night.  I would awaken in the night, gripped with fear thinking someone had invaded our house only to realize it was just the furnace coming on.  
My world was turned upside down.  


Fear stalked me like a lion seeking prey, ready to pounce at any moment. It was a paralyzing terror that threatened to overwhelm me, especially in the dark hours of the night. 


One day my mom shared a verse with me to encourage me in my struggle and it became my mantra. 


. . .  When I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.  Psalm 56.3


I would lay in my bed, saying this verse over and over and over.  Hoping that it would magically remove the fear in my heart and let me sleep.  Even though I quoted this verse endlessly, it never quite seemed to work.  My fear was just as palpable as before. 

I thought those words were magic.  That if I said them in just the right way, with just the right inflection than my fear would be gone.   I believed that these were the code words to release me from my fear.   

 God’s words aren’t “magic” but they are TRUTH. 

I was missing something and that “something” was my action.  It’s not enough just to say the words over and over.  I needed to replace my fear with Trust.  I needed to believe it, act on it, and live it.


Trust takes practice.  It's hard work and it never comes easy.


It’s easy to fear.  It’s easy to take control.  It’s easy to be self-focused.


A few years ago, I once again, found myself living in world of fear with my children.  I was consumed with anxiety over what they were doing and what they would become.  The more control I took the more out of control I felt.  I was overwhelmed.  In that place of fear, God asked me to surrender them to Him; to let go of the control and trust Him.  As I pried my fingers off the lives of my children and learned to release them to Him, God filled me with His perfect peace.


Over the years, I have had to surrender them over and over to the God who loves them even more than I do.  It hasn’t been easy.  Truthfully, it’s been a lot of hard work because I have a tendency to take them back again and again.  But as I’ve worked on this area of trust, it has gotten easier, and I respond quicker. 

Once again, I’m faced with dread as my son heads off to Afghanistan with the military.  I can let fear invade my life and stalk me like a lion or I can choose to Trust. 

I know that in the upcoming months it will be easy to let fear raise its ugly head in life.  But fear is God’s reminder to me to trust Him.


I no longer need to quote words from the Bible with my fingers crossed hoping that they work.  I choose to take God at His word and trust Him with my children, my life and my salvation. 


How about you?  Are you living in a world of fear?  Are you LIVING by trust or by anxiety and worry?


Let fear be your cue to TRUST!


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Streams in the Wasteland

I have been on a journey of prayer and fasting for the past forty days.  It has been a powerful experience in my life.  My expectations of what God would do and what He actually has done are in stark contrast with one another.   I haven’t had huge momentous mind blowing moments but as I look back on these days, I see God reforming me.  Remaking me.

Isaiah 43.18-19 (NIV) says, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a NEW thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” 

God is doing a NEW thing, in my life, as I learn to sit in His presence and wait on Him.  If you had asked me before all this happened if I had a prayer life I would’ve unequivocally said, “YES!”   

But as I’ve traveled this road of waiting and stillness, I have sensed that my prayer life has been a wasteland of distraction, confusion, and disillusionment.  It’s been too easy to let other things take precedence (even good things).  It’s been too easy to let doubt creep in and keep me from falling on my knees before God.  It’s been too easy to allow busyness to overthrow my life and never carve out moments to sit in His presence. 

These forty days have compelled me to forge new habits, instill new practices and change old behaviors.   

I find myself falling to my knees on a regular basis, turning off the radio in the car and spending time with Him in the stillness and quietness of my drive.  I carve out time when I’m the busiest to meet with Him, knowing that I need Him most in those moments.  I wake up and invite God into my day and on it goes.  What was I doing before?  So much wasted time!  So much squandered energy!  

BUT, God is doing a NEW thing in my life.  It is springing up out of the wasteland of my feeble prayer life.   
Isn’t that what God does best?   The impossible!  Life from death.  Hope from despair.  Joy from sorrow.   Beauty from ashes. 
Have you made bad decisions that have left your life a wasteland?  Are you sitting in the ruins of a wasted life wondering if there is any hope?  Take heart!   
God is the God of the impossible!  Nothing is too big for Him.  
“Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history.  Be alert, be present.  I’m about to do something brand-new.  It’s bursting out!  Don’t you see it?  There it is!  I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.”                        (Isaiah 43.18-19 MSG)
He is doing a NEW thing!  Do you perceive it?   

Lord, give us eyes to see!  Ears to hear!  Feet that will follow!  And hearts open to the work of Your surgeon hands.  May we never forget what You have done.  May we continue to follow in Your ways. Keep us faithful to the end.  Amen.