“All You Need Is Love”

(1 Corinthians 13: 12-13, The Message) 12 We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! 13 But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

I have always been intrigued by fog. I think it is beautiful, mysterious, and somewhat scary. It isn’t inherently dangerous — it’s just mist — yet it can pose a threat to those of us who pass through it without caution. This is the world in which we are presently living — it’s a fog. Our world is beautiful to look upon. It is a magnificent wonder, created by God for a specific function. It was never meant for our harm, yet it has become harmful because we have chosen to walk through our lives without thinking. We have thrown caution to the proverbial wind! Our lives, this world, even God Himself, are all mysteries that are gradually revealed as we navigate through it all. Yes, we are surely “peering through a mist,” but we aren’t blind…at least, we don’t have to be blind. We just have to slow down and think, pray, consider and observe. Eventually, the fog will lift. The sun will shine. Things will become clear. One day, we will have all of the answers. But…yes, BUT…until then, we must use caution — caution in our decisions, caution before we speak — because we have an enemy who is laying low, waiting for us to trip and fall. He wants us vulnerable and weak — easy prey.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

It is when we become distracted, when we are not careful, that we fall, and we allow ourselves to believe that we are alone, left out in the fog, lost and afraid.

“Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing, Only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness; So on the ocean of life we pass and speak one another, Only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Tales of a Wayside Inn

Such a sad insight into the loneliness that life can impose upon us. The thought that we are like ships in the night — in a dense fog — passing right on by one another. We are all in the same situation, just trying to navigate through the fog and darkness, through the pain and heartache. We are operating under the pretense that we are alone, yet here we all are…just a whisper away…close enough to touch. Yet if we are not cautious, we either collide or simply drift past one another. We become reduced to mere hazards and missed opportunities.

In this fog we are not left on our own. We may feel lost at times, but we must continue to trust God. He is our hope, anchoring us when we need to stop for a bit and think. “This certain hope of being saved is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls, connecting us with God himself…” (Hebrews 6:19). Above all else, He is love and therefore our inspiration to reach out to and love others. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34) Nothing else that we do will ever matter without love.

In the density of life as we know it, let us remember that God is with us, and that we also have one another. We do not have to lose heart in rough conditions. We can choose to look toward the light of Christ in each of us. We can allow the love of God to penetrate the fog, so that we may see one another as allies, rather than happening upon one another in collisions of disagreement and opinion-driven anger. We can, and should, choose caution when we speak and act, using love as our guide, so that we can minimize damage and loss as we all try to just get through this mess. Then, when the fog lifts, we can be proud of what is revealed.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we need You more than ever, but help us to remember that we also need one another. Help us to LOVE, for LOVE is what You have commanded us to do…NO MATTER WHAT. Without it, we are just a bunch of annoying, dissonant sounds. Help us to instead be pleasing to Your ears. Amen.

“Hide It Under a Bushel? NO!”

(Matthew 5: 14-15, NLT)  14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

I love the imagery of light in darkness.  It brings fanciful, beautiful things to mind.  Like fireflies and streetlights in the summer.  Like the skyline of a city, or the runway lights of an airport as you look down from above.  Stars…a full moon…lamps in warm houses…campfires and flashlights in the fall…candles on a stormy night.  Like Christmas lights twinkling in a silent living room, or lighting up entire streets with the excitement and joy they represent. 

The thing about light is this:  most every living thing is drawn to the warmth and glow of it.  The very essence of light is that it is not dark.  Light stimulates life and growth; it fosters warmth and joy.  When people are happy, we say that their faces and eyes light up.  When someone has an idea, we picture a light bulb over his or her head.  Why?  Because light is the absence of darkness.  Darkness is sadness and fear…ignorance and hurt.  It is the unknown that we dread, and the sin that we work so hard to avoid.  It is the cold, pressurized ocean floor.  Darkness is contrary to the encouragement and creation of life.  It is the absence of light.

This theme of light vs. darkness goes back to the beginning of this world…to creation…and it is woven throughout every phase of our history and the tapestry of God’s word. 

1 Thessalonians 5:5 says, “For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night.”  We know that we are created and born as the earthly representation of God Himself, His children.  If we are children of the light, then we know that God is light.  1 John 4:8 tells us that, “God is love.”  So the equation is actually pretty simple when you think about it:  Light + Love = God. 

Which brings me back around to my point.  If we are the light of the world, then ultimately what Jesus is saying is that we are God in the world!  In Acts 26: 17-18 , Paul shares his account of the day that his life was forever changed by a divine encounter with Christ, and with it, we see not only Paul’s directive but ultimately our own mission.  Jesus said, “ I’m sending you off to open the eyes of the outsiders so they can see the difference between dark and light, and choose light, see the difference between Satan and God, and choose God. I’m sending you off to present my offer of sins forgiven, and a place in the family, inviting them into the company of those who begin real living by believing in me.” (The Message)

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness.  Only light can do that.”  Within each of us is this light, a profound part of who we are from the moment of conception.  God in us…revealed in us.  And with that little light comes great responsibility…to let it shine.  Yet, just one light alone can seem remarkably futile and ineffective.  One candle when your power is out?  One lamp in a dark room?  One streetlight for an entire neighborhood?  And we all know that a strand of Christmas lights doesn’t work with just one bulb.  One lone firefly doesn’t blink when he has no companions with which to communicate.  One light on an airport runway?  Nope.  Lights come in strands and networks.  Stars form constellations and galaxies.  Embers and sparks ignite wildfires.  Fireflies respond to one another and illuminate entire fields. 

We are a city on a hill, not a house.  If we are the light of the world, then we must shine brightly…like a network of stars…like a spreading fire that can’t be put out.  We must pierce every bit of darkness…with love…with our actions…by how we treat and speak to others…by how much we are willing to sacrifice and give to make God and His love known to all whose lives we touch.  Together we are a city, a skyline in the night that cannot be hidden. 

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1: 5, ESV)

Prayer:  God Almighty, You are the Father of the heavenly lights…the Creator of all.  You are love and all that is pure in us.  Help us, in these days of division and strife, to work together, cutting through the darkness of this world.  May we never, ever hide Your light.  Amen.

Are You Listening?

(Luke 8:16-18 HCSB) 16 “No one, after lighting a lamp, covers it with a basket or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a lampstand so that those who come in may see its light. 17 For nothing is concealed that won’t be revealed, and nothing hidden that won’t be made known and come to light. 18 Therefore take care how you listen. For whoever has, more will be given to him; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken away from him.”

When I was a youngster, our Sunday School teachers taught us a song entitled, Be Careful Little Eyes What You See. The song was an encouragement to be aware that the Heavenly Father was lovely watching over us. Knowing this, we were encouraged to guard everything that could negatively impact our relationship with Him. One of the verses said…

O be careful little ears what you hear
O be careful little ears what you hear
There’s a Father up above
And He’s looking down in love
So, be careful little ears what you hear

Luke recorded some very important words spoken by the Lord. Jesus began with the practical reality that people do not light lamps and then cover it with a basket. There are three observations that should be made.

  • To cover the lamp would be counterproductive. Why go to the trouble? Why attempt to drive away darkness by covering the very flame lit to drive it away? Jesus rightly points out that “no one” would do that. Instead, they would display the lamp prominently so everyone would benefit from the light. The light represents the truth of the Gospel. Jesus is saying that we have a responsibility to embrace truth, and to share truth. Our lives should be a reflection of the truth of the Gospel.
  • To cover the lamp with combustible material would bring devastation. The lamp under the straw basket could only be contained until the heat build-up ignited into a raging fire. Here, Jesus wants everyone to know that there is a responsibility to reveal truth, but if we attempt to hide it, it will be revealed anyway. The basket meant to cover truth will be devoured, and truth will break forth regardless of our effort to keep it “under wraps.” Nothing will be allowed to hide the truth!
  • Take care how you listen. The way we listen determines the level of truth by which we live. As a pastor, I’m constantly counseling people to comply with scriptural truth. If my truth is not consistent with scripture I cannot expect my life to be filled with His blessings. The more truth I accept, the more blessing I will receive. The more truth I reject, the more blessing will be forfeited.

When I was a child, my parents would often request my full attention. I can still hear in my mind the voice of one of my parents saying, “Robbie, please listen to me. You’re NOT listening! Look at me and acknowledge that I am speaking to you.” Sometimes they would say, “What did I say? What did I just tell you? You don’t know because you were not listening!” 

And, that really is the message. Jesus knew how important it would be for us to pay close attention to His truth. It is the key to our blessings. Without it, we stand to lose much. But, when hearing and applying His truth, we stand to gain more than we can imagine!

Take care how you listen!

PRAYER: So much of my prayer life is me speaking to you, Father. Today, I intend to listen much more. I’m listening now………….

Contrast

(Matthew 4:15-16 ESV) 15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles– 16 the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”


Matthew records a period of time when Jesus moves to a place where no one would expect him to be. John had been arrested and Jesus knew the authorities would come for him soon. It’s interesting to note that this move was the fulfillment of what Isaiah had predicted many years before.

The description of the geographical location certainly seems to be an out of the way place to hide; the land–beyond the Jordan. But, the reference has more to do with the people than the location. Matthew makes it clear that the Land of Zebulun and Naphtali were full of people who were dwelling in darkness. He’s not suggesting that the sun did not shine there. Rather, he was referring to a sense of spiritual ignorance. Consider…

  • The people which sat in darkness – This is an expression denoting great ignorance. As in darkness or night we can see nothing, and know not where to go, so those who are ignorant of God and their duty are said to be in darkness.
  • The region and shadow of death – This is a forcible and beautiful image, designed also to denote ignorance and sin. It is often used in the Bible, and is very expressive.

Into this setting walks the light of the world. Matthew describes it as, “a light has dawned.” The most impactful thought in this passage is one of contrast. The people were accustomed to living in a spiritual fog, but there was an immediate illumination of spiritual truth when Jesus moved in among them! Things they had never understood were suddenly revealed. Knowledge was chasing the ignorance from their lives. Wisdom increased because of the newly found knowledge that had appeared when Jesus arrived!

I don’t know about you, but this gives me hope! We live in a very dark world. We are told that never before in the modern world have people been so ignorant of Scripture. There are so many reasons to be discouraged. Yet, in the middle of the darkness is a shining light. Jesus is the light of the world!

Let me encourage you to let his light illuminate your darkness. His truth provides a contrasting reality to the lies of the devil. You’ll never be able to see your dark days in the same way once you have experienced the light of his presence!


PRAYER: Thank you Jesus for the light that comes from knowing you! May we never forget how our lives have changed because of your presence. I see much more clearly now because of you! Amen

“Everything the light touches…”

(Deuteronomy 6: 10-12)  10 When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, 12 be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

In life we have “sweet spots.”  You know, those times we all look forward to, when life is just a little easier, a lot more fun, and things seems to roll on by like a peaceful stream…birds are chirping, sun is shining, light breeze in the air.  Life is just cooperating with you!

During these times, it’s easy to take it all for granted…especially when you’ve been through some really difficult spells, because you’re just so relieved to be out of the wilderness.  However, we must remember that nothing we have or experience would exist if not for the grace and love of God.  He’s been merciful to us, and not without reason. 

  1.  We have a commission:  (Matthew 28: 19-20) 19 ”Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.  
  2. We have a commandment:  (John 13: 34-35)  34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Times of rest and respite from hardship are a blessing, and it is during this time that we are able to be an even greater blessing to others than ever before.  Everything within our reaches, all that is accessible, every resource and belonging…it all comes from the hand of God.  Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” 

I can’t help but think of the scene from The Lion King when Mufasa and Simba are watching the sun rise over the Savannah from Pride Rock and Mufasa says to his little prince, “Everything the light touches is our kingdom.”  This is our reality when we are walking in the blessing and favor of God.  We have the world at our fingertips, and that is not something to be squandered or taken lightly.  So yes, rest…relax…breathe deep and enjoy the goodness of life while you are able to do so, but also share, bless, love and…well…do your job!  If you see need, respond.  Speak positivity into negative situations.  Use your testimonies to encourage the lowly.  Give of your time, your money, your listening ears, your gifts and abilities, and your energy to make “everything the light touches” (the kingdom) bigger…stronger…until the love of God, the light of the world, touches every heart and life. 

(Matthew 24:14) And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

And isn’t that “end” what we long to see?  But until then, we have work to do!  And just as you would do at any job, take that much-needed break…then get up, with a renewed mind and spirit, and boldly share the love and word of God…using all of the excess and abundance as kingdom resources.  We can’t get lazy now, and we certainly cannot forget that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.” (James 1:17)

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank you for provision and rest.  Thank you that through your grace and mercy I am delivered from the bondage of sin and darkness.  Let me be a light that shines bright for your glory, using every blessing in my life to spread that light.  Amen.

Represent!

(Matthew 5:13-16 ESV) “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”


REPRESENT: To be entitled or appointed to act or speak for (someone), especially in an official capacity.

I’m naturally a people person. I’ve always enjoyed interacting with people. In fact, there have been times that I’ve embarrassed my family because of my propensity to engage people in meaningless chatter at restaurants. I just can’t help myself! For others, the very thought of interacting with the public can be stressful.

As Christians, we have been appointed to represent Christ to our circle of influence. Jesus called us salt and light; both of which have the power to influence. Salt influences the food that it seasons, and light overpowers the darkness. But, if the salt becomes tasteless, and the light is covered, our influence will have no eternal value.

There are three ideas that are presented in this passage of Scripture. First, we are to purposefully shine our light before others. We are never to hide our influence by being undercover agents. Secondly, we shine our lights by being involved in good works. We can preach all we want, but our witness will be ineffective unless accompanied by good works. Finally, the primary purpose of the work that we do and the words that we speak are to bring glory to our Father in Heaven.

I continue to be amazed by the fact that God has trusted me to represent Him to the world. Surely Jesus will return soon. But until He does, we have been commissioned to show the world His love. Represent!


PRAYER: Father, thank you for trusting me to represent you. I’m am able to do it because You live in me and have empowered me by Your Spirit. Amen.