Light In The Darkness

Light In The Darkness

Isaiah 50:10-11
10 Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God.11 Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.

There are times in our lives when, as Christians, we are called to serve God in the midst of darkness. There are times when it is difficult to see very far ahead. Like driving on a dark highway on a moonless night in the middle of a rainstorm, our lives sometimes feel as if we are going nowhere fast and we are not sure if we will make it to our destination.

It is interesting to me that many Christians desire to be “overcomers”, but do not want much to overcome. We want to go to heaven, but we do not want to die to go there. We want our faith increased, without having to rely on anyone. We want all good times, all the time, and that is simply not how life works. Life is filled with melody and misery, high times and hard times. You may be experiencing a dark time right now, what many saints of the past termed “a dark night of the soul.” You may be at a point right now where you aren’t able to make sense of what is happening in your life. There are times, seasons in our lives, where we have studied the lessons, learned our formulas, memorized the promises of the Bible and think we have it all figured out — and suddenly we are plunged into a deep, deep darkness.

What do you do when the lights go out? When deep darkness comes into your life?
It has been said that in school one learns the lessons first and tests second. In life, we take the test first and learn the lessons second. Hopefully, today you will come to see that there are lessons to be learned when the lights go out.

Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God

In this verse, the Bible is talking about a faithful servant of God. This person loves and fears God. He or she is being obedient. This is not a backslider or someone who has wandered off from God. This is an active Christian who loves the Lord and is being obedient to God’s voice, yet they are in a dark place.

There is a distorted idea out there that once a person becomes a Christian it is all honey and no bees. Not true. It rains on both the just and the unjust. There are tens of thousands of Christians who love God and are obediently serving Him who are experiencing dark times. Over a hundred thousand are martyred across the globe annually.

Job said, “God has put darkness in my path” (Job 19:8) Habakkuk exclaimed, “How long shall I cry out and you not hear?” (Hab. 1:2) John the Baptist sent messengers to Jesus from the cell in which he was imprisoned asking Him if He really was the Messiah. Each of these godly men came to a point in their life that they did not fully comprehend. They experienced a time of darkness, when they did not understand what was happening to them nor why God was allowing it.

When you are in darkness it doesn’t necessarily mean you have sinned or that you are outside of God’s will for your life. It might be that God has put you in a dark time so that His light shines brighter and you can see Him more clearly.

Faith is like film. It is developed in the dark. We grow the most spiritually when we are forced to look to Jesus alone for help. You will never know how much you need Jesus until Jesus is all you have. As Christians, we are called to live by faith – not by explanations. Our verse tells us to trust or lean on the name of the Lord. Even when tough times come. If you do not have the conviction that God is good all the time then you will not stand when darkness falls. Job said – “even if He slays me I will trust in Him.” When walking in darkness we must trust, lean on, God and His promises – which never fail.

When you are in the dark you don’t need explanations. You need God. An explanation sometimes makes things worse. Sometimes God removes all the answers to give us Himself. A relationship with Him is more important than reasons. In his blindness, John Milton wrote Paradise Lost. In prison John Bunyon wrote Pilgrim’s Progress. In exile, John wrote Revelation. In the dark, God develops our faith. Never doubt in the dark what you learned in the light. The test of our character is what we do, how we react, in the dark. God is still God when the darkness comes. He is still reigning on His throne. He still works out things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

Some things, some truths in life, are only learned in the dark. For example, have you ever said, “the stars are out tonight?” Did you know they are out in the daytime but you cannot see them because of the sun’s brightness? There are some treasures, some beautiful things that are only revealed in the dark.

Psalm 148:3 says the stars are there to praise the Lord. Do you have a star in your darkness with which to praise God?

Here are some treasures of the dark. In the light, we see things that are near. In the dark, we see far away – light years away into outer space. We may think our brightest thoughts in the day, but we think our deepest thoughts at night. In the light, we see more clearly. In the dark, we see further. There are some aspects of our future God reveals to us in the dark. If you are praying for God to reveal to you what is next up for your life, be prepared for dark times so that He can show you things that are far off. Just ask Daniel and John about that.

Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.

There is a danger in the dark that Scripture warns us about. One of our most dangerous temptations is that we will be tempted to light our own fire. That is the warning of verse 11. If God has placed darkness around you, then you need to wait on God to remove it. It is better to be in the dark with God than to stand alone in man-made light. Do not ever give into despair during dark times. Darkness cannot overcome light. Remember, you don’t open a door to let darkness in. You open a door to spill out light.

If light has been removed from the situations in your life, then God, in His wisdom, has allowed it so that your faith can be developed and so that He can show you a glimpse of the future. If God is the One who has placed darkness in your path than do not be so foolish as to light your own fire. A man made fire is deceptive. It is not a sure guide to follow. God says that if we light our own fire in the middle of a God ordained darkness we will suffer.

Abraham and Sarah could not wait. Abraham created his own fire with Hagar to produce Ishmael. Untold centuries of suffering have followed his decision. Has darkness come into your life? Are you waiting on God or trying to light your own fire?
Even in the darkest of nights the sun will still rise and chase it away. Eventually God’s light will shine again and the lessons you learn in the dark will last for all eternity. You will see things and know truths that you had never seen or known before. Weeping may endure for a night says Psalm 30:5, but joy will come in the morning.

Remember this, when you are walking on a sunny day, feeling the warmth of the sun’s rays, those rays are 8.3 minutes old when they reach your face. Even though you feel the sun’s warmth, you have never experienced its full intensity. The sun’s surface temperature is approximately 10,000° F. Its inner core is in excess of 27,000,000 °F. You have felt her warmth but not her intensity.

Likewise, we can feel the warmth of God’s presence but we haven’t experienced the full intensity of His glory yet. There is coming a day when we will, but now we only see a fraction of it. When the lights go out God is still there, shining. He wants to give you a star to praise Him more. Our trials become stars in order to praise the Lord. When the lights go out, develop your faith, lean on the Lord, trust in Him and you will see further than you ever have before.

A Foundational Truth

Foundational Truths

Many times, whenever I preach or write on various subjects, someone will invariably say, “why don’t you just preach Jesus? No Old Testament stuff, just preach Jesus.” My answer to them? No one can know Jesus Christ as He really is if you only know Him as the Redeemer of the New Testament. We must preach Jesus as He truly is – all of Him – or we preach another Jesus than the Bible speaks of.

Jesus was Creator before He became Redeemer or Savior. He became our Savior dying on the cross and rising from the grave on the third day because of mankind’s sin. Much, if not all, of that sin is mankind’s rejection of God’s Word, the denial of Him being the Creator. One truly “preaches Christ” when he first of all preaches Him as Creator.

The great message of Christianity is that the just shall live by faith, speaking of them that believe, to the saving of the soul. But what is this saving, living faith? The faith of which Hebrews speaks of is outlined in chapter 11. It is the faith of Abel, offering an acceptable sacrifice. It is Enoch’s faith, pleasing God in obedience. It is Noah’s faith, believing and acting on God’s Word. It is the faith of Abraham, stepping out on God’s promises. But, first of all, it is foundational faith. It is the faith by which “we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear”, Hebrews 11:3.

Any meaningful faith for salvation must be founded on God’s special creation of all things. The saving gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is founded on creation. The very last reference to the gospel in the Bible is found in Revelation 14: 6-7: “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,  Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.”

The angel has the everlasting gospel and its message is for people to worship the One who made heaven and earth and the sea and the fountains of water. The gospel is much more than the cross and the resurrection, it also includes the coming kingdom and God’s great creation. Without creation, the gospel has no foundation and no logical end. The gospel is the good news that Jesus came to save who? Those who were made in God’s image on the earth and who are now marred by sin. What is the end purpose? So that mankind will live with God and enjoy Him forever in His Kingdom. Death first entered God’s finished creation when Adam sinned. Now that Christ is risen, the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul is seeking to assure young Christians at Corinth of the validity of the gospel. He preached to them that which they had believed. In verses 3-11 Paul stresses the witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. In verses 12-19, Paul says, because Jesus rose from the grave it guarantees a future resurrection to all who have hope in Christ. But then, Paul goes further, In verses 20-28 he says that Jesus’ resurrection restores man’s lost estate, reverses the consequences of Adam’s sin, conquers all enemies of God and destroys death itself. In verses 29-34 Paul says this promise not only gives assurance of eternal life, but strength for godly living and triumph over persecutions and opposition. And then, in verses 35-49, Paul ties it all back to creation.

Everything is tied back to creation. Biological, physical, human – all aspects are discussed. Every individual creation of God has been designed with its own marvelous structure for its own divine purpose, as it pleased God to make it like He did. Since each individual creation is distinct it could not have “evolved” from any other.

I am so amazed at so-called Christians who accept as fact Christ’s resurrection from the dead but not the Genesis record of creation in 6 days. Jesus said, “from the beginning of creation God made them male and female,” speaking of mankind. Not after 18 billion years of cosmic history or 4 ½ billion years of earth’s evolution but on day 6.

Psalm 115:16 tells us the very purpose of earth’s creation was that it should be a home for the children of men. A person cannot believe Christ’s words and reject Moses’. Listen to Jesus in John 5:46-47, “For had you believed Moses, you would have believed Me, because He wrote of Me. But if you believe not his writings, how will you believe My words?” In the book of Revelation, Jesus says, “I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.”

The Apostle Peter, not too long before his martyrdom, wrote a remarkably prophetic passage about the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. Listen to the words of 2 Peter 3:3-6,

Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers walking after their own lusts saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? Since the fathers fell asleep all things glorifying God continue as they are from the beginning of creation.” For this they willingly are ignorant of – that by the Word of God the heavens were of old and the earth standing out and in the water; whereby the world that was then being overflowed by water perished.”

Scoffers arise, those who dismiss the Bible as fairy tales or myths, denying special creation. They replace sudden, special creation by God with uniformity and evolution. They willingly deny a universal flood. Anotherwords, they will deny the Genesis account of creation and the flood and in doing so deny the truth of John 1:3, 1:10 and Hebrews 1:2 which state that God created the world through Jesus Christ.

Creation is a non-negotiable doctrine. What a person believes about creation, about the origins of the earth and mankind, will influence what they believe about the meaning and purpose of life. So many of the great founding fathers of science knew this. Kepler, Galileo, Pascal, Newton, Boyle, Breuster, Faraday, Kelvin and others believed that they were glorifying God as they probed and discovered His marvelous works.

Understand this, belief in the Genesis account of creation is necessary for a correct understanding of who Jesus is as the Bible presents Him. To believe in another Jesus, one who did not create the world in 6 days, one who did not create man in His image, one who is not Lord over creation because you believe He was not the Creator, is to send yourself to hell.

Salvation is found in the Jesus of Holy Scripture, not the Jesus of one’s imagination. Salvation is found in believing in Jesus as He is presented in the Bible, not as we wish He was presented. He is either the Creator Lord or He isn’t. You cannot straddle the fence on this issue. The New Testament simply will not allow it. From the Gospels to the letters of Peter, Paul, and John, Jesus is clearly presented as the Creator Lord.

At the beginning, I said that many times I am asked, “Why don’t you just preach Jesus?” I do. I do preach Jesus. I preach Him creating the world in Genesis as part of the Godhead. I preach Him throughout the Old Testament sustaining the world He created. I preach Him in the New Testament redeeming the world He created. I preach Him in Revelation coming back to claim the world He created. What Jesus are you preaching?

 

 

Eve – Lessons from a Great Mother

Eve – A Mother to be Honored

There are a lot of good examples of mothers in the Bible. In the Old Testament, we have Hannah, Ruth, Bathsheba and Jochabed, to name a few. The New Testament gives us Lois, Eunice and Elizabeth. All of them had great strengths. The two greatest mothers, in my opinion, were Mary and Eve.
Mary, of course, was picked by God to give birth to, care for and raise Jesus. She was a woman of the highest moral character under tremendous pressure. How would you like to be responsible for parenting God’s Son? She did an outstanding job and we talk about her a lot, especially around Christmas time.
Eve, though, she was the very first mother. There was no one to teach her how to be a mom. From pregnancy to childbirth she had no idea what to expect. It had never happened before. Holding her first baby – she had no help, no frame of reference, no example to follow. She had never been a baby, a child, a teen so she couldn’t even begin to know what to expect. She had to figure it out all by herself.
She was the first mother to experience the joy of seeing her children grow, of learning how to crawl, walk, talk and run. Eve was also the first mother to see the consequences of her actions play out. She was the first to experience the heartbreak of seeing a child reject the faith and rebel. Some of you reading this have known that pain. Some of you have children or grandchildren or siblings who have walked away from God,
Eve was the first to experience the pain of losing a child. Some of you may have also experienced this. Mother’s Day is hard for many people as they remember those children who have died and many times the church has been insensitive to your pain. Stillbirths, miscarriages, infant deaths, deaths of children at any age – whether by accident, disease or even abortion weigh heavily on the heart. We expect, as parents, to die first. We don’t expect to have to bury our children. Eve had to bury Abel and live with the knowledge that another of her children, Cain, had murdered him.
Eve was also the first to see her children marry and leave home. She was the first to experience the excitement of grandchildren. She was also the first to lose her home. She lost Eden, a paradise. Some of you may have lost homes, through tornadoes, fire, divorce, bankruptcy or job loss. It is not easy picking up and starting over.
Can you imagine Eve’s life? Only Adam with her. No girlfriends, no mother – not until her own daughters grew to adulthood would she have another female adult to talk with. Can you imagine how lonely she must have been in those early years? These are some of the reasons I vote her as the greatest mother of all time.
But what does that mean for us now, in 2017? Well, let’s think for a moment. Who taught Eve how to be a good mother? Who was there for her, to tell her what to expect, what to do? God, Himself, was her resource. God was her first resource and all the resource she needed.
That is a big lesson for today. God is always enough. When he is all you have you come to realize that He is all you need. There is nothing He doesn’t know, no question He cannot answer. There is no problem, no situation that He is not willing and able to help with. Do your kids have you at wit’s end? Call on Him. Are you not sure what is going to happen next? Call on Him. Think you cannot go one, that there is no way out? Call on Him. He is more than enough.
The stories of the Bible are true stories written for our example. They are there for us to learn life lessons. The story of Adam and Eve reveals to us real people in real situations. They were the first to encounter things we take for granted today. They had each other and God. That was all. That was enough.
So many times, we feel as if no one understands what we are going through. We feel that our problems are bigger than anyone else’s problems. We feel alone, vulnerable and overwhelmed. By reading the Scriptures, we see people who faced the same problems and we find a God who meets their needs and helps them overcome their problems.
We fail, many times, to see God as a God who is present with us at all times. He walks with us, offering us His wisdom, strength and knowledge. He cares if a baby is colicky and cries night after night, keeping us awake. He cares if a child is pushing our buttons, or if a spouse is bitter and angry. He cares when we feel lonely even among a group of people.
God had to teach Adam and Eve how to parent. They didn’t learn it from a book. They didn’t have parents to teach them. They didn’t learn it from watching monkeys or cows. God taught them. That is how involved He is with us. He is never too busy. He wants us to communicate with Him. You will not bother Him by asking for help. He is willing and able. The God of the Bible is always helping us – even with the smallest things. He makes ax heads float so aa person can return a borrowed tool. He turns water into wine at a wedding reception so a young couple will not be embarrassed. To know that God is with us and that He cares is an anchor for our life that holds us fast. When Jesus says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you”, it is not just words, it is reality.
Psalm 46:1 says “Our God is an ever-present help in times of trouble.” No place is without God. He is there at our celebrations, the births, weddings, holidays, birthdays and reunions. He is there at times of sadness, in hospitals, at funerals, battlegrounds and prisons. He is there in the normal, boring, mundane days. He is with you today, wherever you are. His Spirit is moving to and fro, softening hearts, bringing understanding of His Word to us.
We need to come to understand God as Eve did. She understood He was her ultimate resource. She had to lean on Him in every aspect of her life. If she wanted to know how to be the best person she could be, how to be a great spouse, how to be a great parent, how to do anything – she had to go to God and seek His help, His wisdom, His leadership. So, too, do we need to be that dependent upon God. You may pick another woman from the Bible to nominate for the greatest mother but in my book Eve is the one. May we all learn from her example.

UNSPECIFIED – NOVEMBER 10: The Book of Genesis: the creation of Eve from Adam’s rib, miniature from the Bible of Souvigny, Latin manuscript 1 folio 4 verso, 12th Century. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)

Lambs and Goats and Good Friday

We were just blessed to have a new kid this Good Friday morning. Not a human child, but a kid. You see, we raise goats. They are beautiful, useful creatures (just look at this picture – the little guy is less than an hour old!) and it got me to thinking about Christ and Easter.

So many times at Easter we focus only on Christ as the perfect Lamb of God. It is just as important to remember Him as a goat also. Jesus was the one who bore our sins away, just as the scapegoat did on the Day of Atonement. Leviticus 16:30 says, “For on this day [Yom Kippur] shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the Lord from all your sins.

The ritual began with the High Priest preparing himself by bathing and changing into a special set of clothes. He then selected three animals as sacrifices—two young goats and one bull. The goats each had a purpose—one as a sacrificial offering and the other as a scapegoat. The High Priest would cast lots (not unlike a roll of a die) to select one goat as the offering and the other as scapegoat . This random selection ensured that the high priest would not be able to sway the decision; God Himself would make the decision. The goat selected as an offering was killed along with the young bull. Their blood together was brought into the center, most holy place of the Temple. That sacrifice atoned for (cleansed, purified) the High Priest, the people and the sanctuary. The stage was set for the next goat, the scapegoat.

The High Priest placed both hands upon the head of the goat and confessed aloud the sins of the nation, transferring them to the goat. This casting of the sins was more than symbolic; it was ritual. As the previous goat was killed as a representative of the nation before God, this goat would carry away the sins as a representative of the nation. The goat was then brought deep into the wilderness by a trusted man and released in a barren place. Ancient Jewish tradition records that the goat would be led to a rocky place, or a place of jagged rocks to ensure the death of the goat in the wilderness.

Jewish history records that it was a common practice to tie a red strip of cloth to the scapegoat. The red stripe represented the sin of the people which was atoned for by the red blood on the mercy seat. According to the Jewish Talmuds this red stripe would eventually turn white, signaling God’s acceptance of the offering.

 There is an amazing reference in the Talmuds that verifies that after Jesus was crucified, God no longer accepted the sin offering and the scapegoat offered by the Jewish high priests. The Talmuds state: “Forty years before the Temple was destroyed (30 A.D.) the chosen lot was not picked with the right hand, nor did the crimson stripe turn white, nor did the westernmost light burn; and the doors of the Temple’s Holy Place swung open by themselves, until Rabbi Yochanon ben Zakkai spoke saying: ‘O most Holy Place, why have you become disturbed? I know full well that your destiny will be destruction, for the prophet Zechariah ben Iddo has already spoken regarding you saying: ‘Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour the cedars’ (Zech. 11:1).’  Talmud Bavli, Yoma 39b

Christ bore our sins away at the cross. Just as the iniquities of the children of Israel were put on the scapegoat by the high priest (Leviticus 16:21), so God laid on Christ “the iniquities of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6).  Just as the scapegoat had to “bear upon him” (Leviticus 16:22) all the iniquities of the children of Israel, so “Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many;” (Hebrews 9:28), “he bore the sin of many,” (Isaiah 53:12), and he “bore our sins in his own body on the tree,” (1 Peter 2:24).

Just as the scapegoat took the sins of the children of Israel away into the wilderness (Leviticus 16:21-22), so it is “Jesus … who takes away the sins of the whole world.” (John 1:29), because “he was manifested to take away our sins;” (1 John 3:5), and “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he (the LORD) removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12). Thus the scapegoat was a type of Christ. Just as the scapegoat was not bearing his own sins, but the sins of others (Leviticus 16:21), so Christ was not bearing his own sins (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5), but our sins (Isaiah 53:5-61 Peter 2:24).

Christ was and is the Lamb that was slain. He was also the goat that bore our sins away. This Easter, contemplate on Leviticus 16 and Hebrews 4 and 9 and what Christ did for us. Good Friday, Lambs and Goats — what a story, what a Savior.baby goat