This Little Light of Mine

Suggested Scripture Reading: Matthew 5 (The Sermon On the Mount)

Focal Passage: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16 

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The word “light” is used hundreds of time in the Bible, and often as a symbol. Among its representations are purity, truth, divine revelation, knowledge and even Jesus Himself. Webster’s dictionary defines it as “the form of energy that makes it possible to see things”. I believe that is the sense in which Jesus used it in the above passage. When the light of Jesus shines brightly within us, our works…indeed our very lives allow others to see Him through us.

There is a funny thing about light, though. It illuminates everything around it…the good and the bad. When we are living for Jesus, sometimes our very presence can irritate those around us. Our light exposes their sin, and that makes them uncomfortable. None of us wants to do that, and so we often “dim” our light to fit in. Not that we don’t want to shine, but maybe just not so brightly…so we don’t stick out and “bother” other people.

I spent some time in Savannah, GA this week at an annual convention I attend about every other year. As I was driving down, I was thinking of the people I would see that are usually there, and the thought occurred to me that I needed to share Christ with someone. I didn’t have anyone particular in mind, but as I thought about it one name popped into my mind and stayed there. For purposes of this study, I’ll call him Bill. He isn’t a close friend, but an acquaintance I’ve known for several years and that I see two or three times annually at events like this one.

As I set up for the show, it wasn’t long before I saw him. We talked a bit about business, and he left to speak to someone else. I saw him several times that day, but I didn’t feel like I had the opportunity to say anything. We both had customers to take care of and we went about our duties…all day long.

The next day, things slowed down a bit, and he wandered over to me and struck up a conversation. Finally I steered it around to spiritual things. As I told him what Jesus meant to me, he stopped me in mid sentence and said, “Bob, I’m a Christian too…Jesus is my Lord and Savior”. We looked at each other for a few seconds in silence, and then both of us said at almost the same time, “Why didn’t we know?” As we were discussing this, I asked Bill if I had ever done or said anything in his presence that would lead him to think otherwise; to which he answered no.

I have thought about that question all week, and it is the reason for the verse I posted this past Wednesday. Why didn’t we each know that the other was a believer? I have come to this conclusion: It’s not that I had done anything bad in front of him for which I had to be ashamed, but apparently, when around him, my light had not shown brightly enough for him to notice it.

Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here. I don’t feel led to beat everyone I meet over the head with the Bible, or to walk around preaching to each person that crosses my path. But I believe we should all live in such a way, that when people are exposed to us on a regular basis, they should see a difference…we should “stick out” in a way that makes them want to know more about our lifestyle.

So how do we do that? When you think about it, we are not the source of that light, but merely reflectors. As the moon reflects the light of the sun, so we should reflect the source of our light, Jesus Christ. We’re like solar powered yard ornaments that soak up the power of the sun all day so they can shine brightly when the darkness comes.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;” 

On cloudy days without full sunshine, the solar lights I mentioned above will grow dim. Our power comes from His Word, and without soaking it up daily; our light can become dim as well. In addition, daily Bible study gives us the confidence to not only reflect His light, but to verbally share it. We should be not only examples of His grace, but also sharers of His grace.

“…but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you…” 1Peter 3:15. 

This week may we all remember the words of the children’s song we learned long ago: “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine”. 

Lord Jesus, help me to reflect Your light in all that I do. Not as a solar light that grows weak from lack of power, or a candle that flickers and disappears when the wind blows. But help me to be a beacon that shines bright for all to see and to light the way for others to find You.

And That’s the Truth

1 Peter 1

Focal Passage: Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. For,

“All flesh is like grass,


And all its glory like the flower of grass.


The grass withers,
And the flower falls off,

But the word of the Lord endures forever.” 

And this is the word which was preached to you. 1Peter 1:22-25 

Have you ever been involved in a discussion about the Bible and heard something similar to the following statements?

“Well, we can’t be sure the Bible is true…I mean it was written so long ago”…”I don’t believe all of it is true, but certain parts are”…”There are so many translations, we can’t really know which is right”. And then of course there’s this one: “There are just too many contradictions in the Bible”.

I’ve been a student of apologetics for many years…I find it fascinating. For those not familiar with the term, the dictionary defines it as “a branch of theology devoted to the defense of the divine origin and authority of Christianity.” But basically, it’s the science of learning and being able to discuss that believing God makes sense. Contrary to what the world would say, believing the Bible doesn’t require “blind faith”, it requires “intelligent faith”, and apologetics teaches us that sufficient proof exists.

Unbelievers often ask the question, “Can you prove that God exists?” Well, we might offer this question in contrast, “If I were to show you proof that God exists, would you be objective enough to believe it? The Bible tells us that the answer to the first question is “yes”, but the answer to the second is “no”.

In Romans chapter 1, Paul says, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” vs. 19-20 

Then he further states in v. 28, “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind…” 

So the answers to the two questions above are, yes, I can give you proof, but, no, you aren’t likely to believe it because you aren’t thinking clearly. Because they don’t believe the evidence God gives them, their reasoning is, as Paul says, “depraved”.

But Jesus tells us in the Great Commission, we are to “go and tell”…and sometimes that requires some explanations. I’ve discussed some of these things in a previous study, but here are some hard facts about God’s word that you might want to commit to memory. Before the turn of the 20th Century, it was easier to believe that the Bible was a work of fiction. But modern Archaeology has something different to say…

-In 1947, at Qumran, The Dead Sea Scrolls were found. They date back to the 3rd century and are the earliest copies of the Old Testament. They contain portions of every book in the Old Testament except for Esther. They detail prophecies that have been fulfilled and provide evidence for the Bible’s divine origin.

-The Dead Sea Scrolls also include a complete copy of the book of Isaiah, dated approximately 335 years before Christ. Isaiah is an old testament book that contains at least 129 prophesies that foretell events and details that Jesus fulfilled. Its contents have been found to be more than 99% exactly the same as our modern Bible’s Isaiah.

-Over 27,000 sites have been discovered that have connection to the Old Testament. NOT ONE archaeological discovery has ever contradicted a Bible reverence.

-Over 24,000 copies of the New Testament have been discovered. Some of them date back to within a few hundred years of the time of Jesus on the earth. Our New Testament today is virtually free from any corruption when compared to these manuscripts. Less than ½ of 1 % differs, and critics have attributed this to be mostly differences in spelling or word order. Not one single variant has any bearing on doctrine of faith.

So…can we offer proof that our Bible is true? Yes we can, and there are pages and pages of facts like the ones above. Can anyone offer proof to the contrary? The answer is no.

If you are interested in looking further into apologetics, one of the sites I’ve found interesting is “Answers in Genesis”. https://answersingenesis.org . But remember, studying apologetics is not for the purpose of being able to argue about God’s Word. It’s about being able to share it with confidence and humility. Peter said we should always be ready to do so.

“… but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence…”1Peter 3:15

I hope you have a blessed and safe Labor Day Weekend!

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” Matthew 24:35

Every Hour…A Simple Prayer

A few minutes in a morning devotional…a prayer uttered before a meal…A few hours in Church on Sunday…some time alone before bed…it’s just not enough.

Heavenly Father, forgive me for just trying to work You into my busy schedule here and there. As time passes by, I realize more than ever that I need You in every circumstance in which I find myself. Lord, I need Your light to find my way through these busy streets I navigate. I need Your strength to overcome the obstacles I encounter each day. I need Your wisdom to make decisions that affect my family and those around me. And I need Your presence throughout each day for the peace that passes all understanding.

As the hymn says, “I Need Thee Every Hour”. Fill me Lord, abide in me…keep me ever close to you. I pray these things in the name above all names, Jesus.

“I need thee, O I need thee;

Every hour I need thee;

O bless me now, my Savior, I come to thee.”

Amen.

When The Walls Close In

Suggested Scripture Reading: 2 Kings 6: 8-17, John 16:33

Focal Passage: These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 

What keeps you awake at night? Is it things that happened in the past? Is it worry about the future? More often than not, for most of us, it’s what is happening in the here and now. Work…family…health…finances; sometimes it is overwhelming. Take a moment and travel with me if you would to Old Testament times…around 850 years before Christ.

The king of Aram (Central Syria today) is at war with Israel. He has top-secret meetings with plans to defeat them, but alas, at every turn Israel is one step ahead. He smells a rat, so to speak. There must be a turncoat, a mole in his inner circle that is telling the king of Israel his plans. Well, if you read the suggested Scripture above, it turns out that there is no turncoat in his midst…just a very wise man of God on the side of Israel. Elisha…He knows every word the king of Aram says in secret. So there is a change of plans in Aram; forget about Israel for a while…let’s take out Elisha.

So during the night, the king sent horses and chariots and surrounded the city…an army sent to take out Elisha! A bit of overkill, don’t you think? It reminds me of the last scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It seemed as if the entire Bolivian army had surrounded them. One of the officers had asked how many there were. “Dos Hombres?” He couldn’t believe they had summoned such a force for just two men.

You think your walls are closing in? Elisha’s servant must have felt much the same as Butch and Sundance. The Bible tells us he awoke and walked outside to find “an army with horses and chariots was circling the city.” Talk about a reality check; that would get you awake in a hurry. I’m sure it didn’t take long for him to go running back inside and cry out to Elisha, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?”

Have you ever felt like this? Have you ever looked at your own situation as if it was hopeless…feeling like there was no way out? Surrounded by an army…the walls closing in? Most of us can say, “been there…done that”.

Now let’s look at Elisha’s response. “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” He prayed for his servant’s eyes to be opened and the servant now saw what Elisha saw…”and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” 

What an awesome glimpse the Scriptures give us here into the supernatural power of God. May I suggest that we sometimes need to have our eyes opened spiritually just as Elisha’s servant did physically? If you are a follower of Christ, your eyes were opened the moment you gave your life to Him. But there is a continual need for believers to ask for the Lord to give us spiritual insight and growth.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. Ephesians 1:18-19 

May I also suggest to you that as believers, we have a power as great as that which Elisha’s servant saw…and that it, rather He, lives within us?

“…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17-19 

What strength lies within us…even greater, what hope lies with in us! The power of Christ, in us! Which brings us to the focal passage of today’s study:

These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 

But what is the secret…how do we tap into that power? Let’s look further into John’s teachings. In the latter part of the preceding chapter John further elaborates… God abiding in us, as we abide in Him. And how do we abide in Him? Obedience!

The one who keeps God’s commands lives in Him, and He in them. And this is how we know that He lives in us: We know it by the Spirit He gave us. 1 John 3:24 

Does This mean as Christians we walk on easy street? No…quite the contrary. As the focal passage states, we will have tribulation, trials, problems, and sadness. They come with the fallen state of this world. But we have Christ within us. And I, for one, would rather walk through the calamities of this life with Him than to walk down easy street without Him.

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39

A Child of the King

Suggested Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 2:1-10

Focal Passage: But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, a people for His possession,
so that you may proclaim the praises
of the One who called you out of darkness
into His marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9 

In the second chapter of his epistle, Peter continues what he began in chapter 1, outlining our duties as Christians…even as we go through trials and suffering. He begins by telling us to listen and grow in God as we explore the “pure milk” of His Word (vs. 1-3), being built as “living stones” into God’s church. (vs.4-8). He speaks of two relationships we must have. We must work with each other, just as the bricks of a building rely upon one another. And we must rest on the foundation of our Cornerstone, the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the focal passage above, Peter begins to clarify the nature of the church, and the duty we have as Christians…to each other and to the world. When I study the Bible, I like to read various translations. My favorite is the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) and then the New American Standard Bible (NASB). But I also enjoy the beauty and poetry of the King James Version. It often helps me to understand the meaning of the different wording among translations. In the KJV, the verse above reads as follows:

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a [peculiar] people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light; (bracketed emphasis mine)

Notice that I put the word “peculiar” in brackets. Why does the KJV use that word for Christians instead of “chosen”, as is used in many of the modern translations? That’s because at the time the King James Version was translated, the word peculiar referred to something belonging to someone, like property. If you look up the word on line today in Webster’s Dictionary, you will see “different from the usual or normal” among its several definitions. If you look further, you will also see the following under the word’s origin:

“Middle English peculier, from Latin peculiaris of private property, special, from peculium private property”.

Peter is not saying that as believers we are odd or unusual people (though the world sometimes thinks of us this way), but that we are God’s property…His private possession. Another way to put it is we are His own special people. In fact, he says we are His “royal priesthood”.

Although it might sound scary, what Peter means is we now have the benefits that before Christ were only available to the high priests. As believers, we now have direct access to God. We don’t have to pray through anyone else…we don’t have to confess our sins to anyone else…we don’t have to experience God through anyone else. We can go directly to God at any time!

But with benefits, come responsibilities. As priests, we are also ministers…not pastors, but ministers. And as such, we have a responsibility to the world around us. As the second part of the focal verse puts it…

…so that you may proclaim the praises
of the One who called you out of darkness
into His marvelous light. 

Peter goes on to tell us in the next few verses, that by observing our good works, others will glorify God. Did you know the Latin word for priest means “bridge builder”? We are to be bridge builders between man and God. What a glorious honor is that for which we were chosen…to bring others to Him.

Dr. Ed Young, senior pastor of Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, told this story in a devotional I read this week. A Bible Study group he knew consisted of doctors, attorneys, CEOs, vice presidents, entrepreneurial geniuses and a street sweeper. In the initial meeting, the group leader asked each to identify himself. “I am a physician,” said one. “I’m an attorney,” another responded. “I’m vice president for operations,” answered a third. “I am a son of the King,” the street sweeper said. He had no identity in the world in which he could boast, but he knew his core identity. The others were clouded by their earthly titles, but the street sweeper knew he was chosen by the King of Kings to be a son, with all the privileges, promises and honors of that high position.

As we go about our daily lives this week, may each of us remember that we are “a child of the King”…and may we “proclaim the praises
of the One who called you out of darkness
into His marvelous light.” 

 

Do You Remember?

Suggested Scripture: Deuteronomy, Chapter 6

Focal Passage: Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. 7 Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:5-9 

Let’s set the stage for this study. God has given His commandments to Israel for the second time. If you haven’t read the book, I know you’ll remember the scene from the movie. Charleton, Heston, as Moses, comes down from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments the Lord has given him. But the people have so corrupted themselves that Moses, in anger, throws the tablets at the base of the mountain destroying them. The Bible tells us that later (Exodus 34) God gave them to Moses again.

Now flash forward to Deuteronomy 6. The Children of Israel are about to enter the land God has promised them. As Moses discusses God’s laws, he clarifies the attitudes implied by them rather than only giving the specific commands. (It is one thing for us to know God’s Word…it is another thing for us to obey it and apply it to our lives). He begins by presenting Yahweh (a form of the Hebrew name for God) as the one true God who requires our complete devotion. We are to love Him with our “heart and soul”, or wholeheartedly, as we might say today.

The next verses discuss the importance of remembering these truths and teaching them to their children and future generations. This is part I want to discuss today. God told them to bind them as a sign on their heads and as symbols on their foreheads. Orthodox Jews of old (and some still today) would write the commandments on parchment and put them in little boxes called “Tefillin” and bind them on their wrists and foreheads. But is this what God is asking of us? I don’t believe so.

God wanted then what He wants of us today…to keep His Word in our hearts and in our homes. We are to take every opportunity to talk about His statutes with our families and those around us. Look at verses 6-8. We are to teach them to our children and grandchildren…to discuss them as we go about our day…let them be our first thoughts in the morning and the last thing we think about at night.

Have you ever gotten a song stuck in your head? No matter what you did, that song kept drumming around in there all day. That’s the principle here. His Word is to be a part of our very nature, and these verses tell us how to make that so…we are to let them be part of everything we do.

I posted a verse this past week in Wednesday’s Word about the importance of keeping God’s Word in our heart.

Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You. Psalm 119:11 

The only way I know to do that is to read it and memorize it. When was the last time you memorized a verse from the Bible? I’ll bet most of you can recite John 3:16 and the Lord’s Prayer. And if you were in Sunday School growing up as I was, perhaps you memorized other passages of Scripture. I still remember many of them verbatim today…the Christmas story in Luke 2, Psalm 100, Psalm 23 and others. As a small child, they were just words without meaning, but as I got older, their meanings were clear and comforting.

There are many reasons to memorize God’s Word. First and foremost, as the Psalmist tells us in the above passage, it keeps us from sinning. When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, His only defense against this attack was the Word of God. Three instances are told to us in Matthew 4:1-11, and Jesus answered each temptation with God’s Word. He didn’t read it…He recited it…He had memorized it.

There are other reasons for memorizing Scripture, and Chuck Swindoll elaborates in his book, Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life: 

“I know of no other single practice in the Christian life that’s more rewarding, practically speaking, than memorizing Scripture. That’s right. No other single discipline is more useful and rewarding than this. No other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends! Your prayer life will be strengthened. Your witnessing will be sharper and much more effective. Your counseling will be in demand. Your attitudes and outlook will begin to change. Your mind will become alert and observant. Your confidence and assurance will be enhanced. Your faith will be solidified.”

There are many verses in the Bible that emphasize the importance of committing Scripture to our hearts. And God gives yet another reason preceding our focal passage:

Do this so that you may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life by keeping all His statutes and commands I am giving you, your son, and your grandson, and so that you may have a long life. Deuteronomy 6:2

The fear of God is the respect that comes when we understand and appreciate His holy character…it carries the idea of total trust and submission to Him. God promises to bless those who fear Him and obey His Word. And the best way to do that is to commit it to heart.

The next time you get that tune stuck in your head, and it’s driving you nuts, why not open God’s word and pick a verse? Read it over and over…recite it out loud and repeat it throughout the day. I bet you’ll find that tune will go away and you will draw closer to Him in the process.

Are You Being Served?

Suggested Scripture: John 13:1-13

Focal Passage: When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. John 12:12-14 

Some of you may recognize that I borrowed the title of this study from the British sitcom of the same name. It was first televised in the late 70s through the mid 80s. The setting was a department store, and the title was from a greeting the employees used as they approached a customer, “Are You Being Served”? I think the American parallel phrase might be, “May I help you”?

People often look to God in the same manner…as a place to turn only when they have problems. As if He is the department store employee waiting to ask the question when we come into His presence. How may I help you? It’s not that they really feel that way, it just happens…life gets busy…we have work, we have children or grandkids…or both. We go about our daily business, taking care of all of life’s necessities, and then BOOM…calamity comes, and we hit our knees.

Please don’t misunderstand me; that is the first place we should go when we have problems. He wants us to come to Him when we are afraid.

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. Isaiah 41:10

But is that the reason for our salvation? Do we accept Jesus as Savior so He can be our personal problem solver? Many Christians live as if they think the job of serving God is for pastors or other church leaders. But God says every member of His family is to minister. In the Bible, the words “servant” and “minister” are synonyms. If you are a Christian, then you are a minister. And our ministry is to serve others.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

I was recently listening to CD study of the book of Revelation by my favorite preacher of all time, the late Dr. Adrian Rogers. In it he asked a the following question:

“Is what you are living for worth Christ dying for”?

It hit me like a ton of bricks…what a question! Here’s another one: Why doesn’t God just immediately take us to heaven the minute we accept His Grace…why does He leave us in this chaos? We need look no further than His word for the answer. He leaves us here to fulfill His purposes. God intends for us to minister to others.

As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. I Peter 4:10

All around us are people who need Christ…who need to be touched by His love. There’s that neighbor who is sick…that young person who needs encouraging…that elderly person who is lonely, or unable to help himself. And there is that friend who may not know Christ at all.

It’s easy to see in the posts here on facebook that we all have so much…a roof over our heads, plenty (or too much) to eat. Loving families who care for us. But everything we have belongs to the Lord. And we should each use our possessions, gifts, talents or whatever resources we have at hand to serve. In doing that, we honor Him and glorify His name. That is why we are here.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45