Daily Light – February 29, 2019

You Are Not You Without Him

(Article by Scott Hubbard:  Editor, desiringGod.org)

She didn’t want to lose herself.

Friends had invited her to church, where she was suddenly confronted with her own fork in the road: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). For the first time, she understood that coming to Christ would mean coming to die.

But there were so many parts of herself that she didn’t want to die: her hobbies, her friends, her sense of humor, her future plans. Who would she be if she handed them over to Jesus? She thought of some Christians she knew — nice, neat, and bland. They seemed to dress their souls in beige every day. She wondered if Jesus would flatten her personality, her identity. She feared, with Nietzsche, that “in heaven, all the interesting people are missing.”

She didn’t want to lose herself. And so, she heard Jesus say, “Follow me,” and she walked away.

Building Babel

Losing your life has never been easy. The age has not yet come, nor will it ever, when self-denial will be convenient, or taking up a cross comfortable. In our culture of self-help and self-realization, of individuality and independence, of “you do you” and “follow your heart,” Jesus’s call to lose ourselves stabs at the very heart. Who will we be if we hand our self over to a Lord who demands all of us?

“The age has not yet come, nor will it ever, when self-denial will be convenient, or taking up a cross comfortable.”

Many in the world hear Jesus’s call and, like the young woman, fear that following him will destroy all that gives meaning to me. They’d prefer to keep their own identity, that self they’ve been fashioning for so many years. And so, they stay in their little land of Shinar, adding bricks to their personality and appearance, their resume and persona, building Babels to make a name for themselves (Genesis 11:1–4).

Even in the church, many of us cannot help but be tempted by our culture’s obsession with a self-made self. Though Jesus has taken a wrecking ball to our former selves, we can find ourselves walking wistfully among the ruins, even trying to raise little shacks here and there. Not content to locate our identity simply in him, we seek to be known by something else as well, something all our own: a certain style of clothing or music, a method of raising our children, a unique career or passion, an expertise on some subject, a grade point average.

We take innocent things in themselves and use them as hideouts from the One who would refashion us in his own image. The quiet rebellion spills out when God disrupts (or dismantles) our little fortresses of self.

We have forgotten, as C.S. Lewis puts it,

It is no good trying to be ‘myself’ without Him. The more I resist Him and try to live on my own, the more I become dominated by my own heredity and upbringing and surroundings and natural desires. In fact what I so proudly call ‘Myself’ becomes merely the meeting place for trains of events which I never started and which I cannot stop. (Mere Christianity, 225–26)

Moons on the Run

The God who made us in his own image has not given us the power to create a self that can survive on its own. From the beginning, our true identity (who we are) has been tied to our Creator (who he is): “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him” (Genesis 1:27). God created us to be like the moon: cold and barren on our own, but aflame with light when we come near the sun.

Any self that flees from God will eventually go dark. Those who give themselves over to themselves do not, in the end, become more interesting, more unique, or even more themselves; they become beasts: “like unreasoning animals” (Jude 10), “like a horse or a mule” (Psalm 32:9), “like the beasts that perish” (Psalm 49:12). The farther we flee from the great Person who created us, the more we forfeit our personhood (Romans 1:21–25).

“The more we pursue self-realization, the more we lose the self God made us to have. We unself ourselves.”

Anything we give ourselves to for our own sake and not for Christ — beauty, wealth, friendship, sex, food, comfort, power — eventually becomes our master, defacing the remnants of that image that God placed upon us (Romans 6:16). Those who quip that they’d rather be in hell with all the interesting people do not know what they are saying. Hell will not be filled with interesting personalities, but with people who are barely recognizable: Nebuchadnezzars finally cast down from their thrones, eating grass like an ox (Daniel 4:33).

Wildflower Kingdom

If we would find a self that will last forever, we will need to die to the search for a self apart from Christ. We will need to die to self-realization, die to our independence, die to a me-centered universe, and give ourselves up to the one who says, “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:24).

We will need, in the language of the apostles, to leave behind that old self, crucified with Christ, and embrace that new self, “which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:10). And when we do, we will find that we are finally becoming the person God made us to be — more ourselves than we ever could have been on our own.

Jesus is not interested in obliterating the personalities of those who follow him. He does not aim to fill the kingdom of heaven with clones. He aims, rather, to renew our new self “after the image of its creator” — a creator who is not a bare unity, but a glorious unity of Father, Son, and Spirit.

The triune God who made heaven and earth, the sea and everything in it, is not a God of monotony, as any field of wildflowers can tell you. He is the God of the orchestra and the dance, who makes a world swirling with diversity yet held together in him. When you give yourself up to him, you will become part of a grand whole, but not swallowed up (Colossians 1:17); a member of a worldwide body, but with a distinct part to play (1 Corinthians 12:12); one among myriads upon myriads and thousands upon thousands, but with your own note to add to that colossal chorus (Revelation 5:11–12).

“We become most us when we forget about ourselves and become consumed with him.”

You may lose yourself when you give yourself up to Christ, but only those parts of yourself that deserve to be lost — the parts that will be torn apart and thrown into the lake of fire (Romans 6:21). We will no longer use our hobbies as props for our identity, but will enjoy them as gifts from a kind God. We will no longer restrict our social circle to those who really get us, but will rub shoulders with the most unlikely. We will no longer plan a future around our own bucket list, but will dream about meeting the real needs of needy people.

Parts of you will be burned away, others will be refined and repurposed, and whole new parts of you will come alive. Die to yourself, and you will find the true you.

Find Yourself

When we lose ourselves, we do not simply get a new self, increasingly radiant with the glory of our Maker. We begin thinking about ourselves less and less.

We begin to discover that we become most us when we forget about ourselves and become consumed with him. We will discover that we are happiest when we care least about how unique we are, or what sort of personality we have. We would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of God, gazing upon his face, than hold a mirror to our own in the tents of wickedness (Psalm 84:10).

Give yourself up to him. Walk into this river that divides the kingdom of self from the kingdom of Christ, and let it wash the old you away. Don’t worry about losing the best parts of yourself. Anything good in you will be waiting for you on the other bank, transfigured. And on the other side, you will find that the true you has always been hidden away in him.

Scott Hubbard is a graduate of Bethlehem College & Seminary and an editor for desiringGod.org. He and his wife, Bethany, live in Minneapolis.

Daily Light – February 18, 2019

Is Jesus God?

(An article from “Going Farther’ website, PeaceWithGod.net)

Some say Jesus Christ was just a man, or maybe a great teacher. But He was and is much more than that. The Bible says Jesus is unique in both His person and His purpose. He wasn’t just some spiritual individual during His time on earth; He was both God’s Son (John 3:16) and God Himself—God in human flesh (I Timothy 3:16). Yes, He was fully man, but He was also fully God (Colossians 2:9).

The claims

Jesus claimed to be God.  It might be hard to understand how this could be true, but it’s important to remember that God is much bigger and more powerful than we can comprehend. We do know that Jesus said He existed before Abraham (John 8:58). He claimed that He and His Father are one (John 10:30), and that He is equal with the Father (John 5:17-18).

Not only did He claim to be God, but He also claimed to have the power of God. He said He has the authority to judge the nations (Matthew 25:31-46). He claims the authority to raise people from the dead (John 5:25-29) and to forgive sins (Mark 2:5-7)—things only God can do (I Samuel 2:6Isaiah 43:25).

Further, Jesus says He has the power to answer prayers (John 14:13-14), and that He will be with His followers always (Matthew 28:20). The New Testament equates Jesus to the creator of the universe (John 1:3), and in John 16:15, He says, “All that belongs to the Father is mine.”

But where’s the proof?

Claiming to be something, as Jesus claimed to be God, doesn’t make it true. Where’s the evidence that He is God?

Jesus’ identity isn’t based solely on what He says, but on what He does. And He has left a lot of evidence that He is God. That evidence includes fulfilled prophecy and recorded miracles in which Jesus reversed the laws of nature. He also lived a sinless life (Hebrews 4:15), something no one else has done.

The ultimate proof of His divinity, however, was His resurrection from the dead after His death on the cross. No one else has ever risen from the dead on his own.

Did Jesus ever say, ‘I am God’?

If someone said to you, “I am God,” would you believe him? Many people who believe in one God would think the person is blaspheming. Even if Jesus said the exact words, “I am God,” many people would not have believed Him or even heard what He had to say. Yet, He did give us reasons to believe such a claim without using these words.

In Luke 4:8, Jesus says, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’” He said and showed many times that He is the Lord. Jesus says, for example, that He is “the first and the last” (Revelation 1:17, 22:13), which God the Father says in Isaiah 44:6.

But maybe you’re looking for a place in the Bible where Jesus says, “I am God; worship me” in those exact words. If we suggest that Jesus could only claim to be God by saying that one sentence, we might also ask where He says, “I am a great teacher, but not God,” or, “I am just a prophet; don’t worship me.” The Bible doesn’t say that, either.

The good news is that Jesus told us He is God in many different ways! He has made it clear that He and God the Father are one (John 10:30), and says in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” Who else could claim these things except God?

Does that mean there are multiple gods?

Believing Jesus is God doesn’t mean there are multiple gods. Followers of Jesus believe in one God in three persons.

As Billy Graham once explained, “God has shown Himself to us in three ways—as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Each has a separate function—and yet they are all united as one God.

“Let me illustrate it this way. Have you ever thought of some of the things we see around us that are both three—and yet also one? Centuries ago, St. Patrick used a clover leaf to teach the Irish about this—it has three leaves, and yet is still only one leaf. Or think of water. A quart of water can be ice, water, or steam—but it’s still the same quart of water.”

How can Jesus be God if He is God’s Son?

If Jesus is God’s Son, does that mean God had a wife?

God has never had a wife. Calling Jesus God’s Son is an expression of His role in relation to God the Father. Unlike us, Jesus was not conceived by two earthly parents; He was born of a virgin through a miraculous work of God. He was born holy, without sin.

Being born of a virgin might seem impossible—even Jesus’ mother, Mary, asked, “How will this be? (Luke 1:34)—yet God is all-powerful and made a way for the holy Jesus to be born a human. In Matthew 1:20, an angel tells Mary’s fiancé, Joseph, that what is conceived in Mary “is from the Holy Spirit.” Jesus was not born out of a sexual relationship between God and Mary, but instead out of a miracle by God through the Holy Spirit. Jesus was both fully God and fully human.

It is also significant that the most thorough Gospel account of the virgin birth was written by Luke, a medical doctor. If anyone knew the impossibility of a virgin birth, it was Luke—yet, after careful research, he concluded that it was a fact. The God who was powerful enough to create the universe was also powerful enough to bring Jesus into the world without a human father. His miraculous birth is just one more testament to His deity.

Why should we care who Jesus is?

There is one way to heaven, one way to be free from your sin and to have a relationship with God. That’s through Jesus Christ. Acts 4:12 says, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” To have eternal life in heaven, you must put your trust in Jesus. Here’s why:

We all sin, meaning we all fall short of God’s perfect standard. The consequence of sin is death (Romans 6:23). That means eternal separation from God. But because Jesus lived a sinless life, His death on the cross provided the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Because He defeated death by rising again, we can have eternal life in the presence of God when we put our trust in Him.

Hundreds of people saw and believed in the risen Christ after His death and resurrection, and countless people in the past 2,000 years have discovered that only Jesus can meet the deepest longings and needs of the human heart. In Jesus Christ alone “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).

Can we trust what the Bible says about Him?

The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ is God, and there are many reasons we can trust the Bible. (Find “Is the Bible true?” under the Common Questions section for five of them.)

Not only do we have many reasons to believe that the text of the Bible is true, but many will find that reading the Bible allows God to speak to them—perhaps not audibly, but through His words.

While there are different translations of the Bible, the same core message is the same—that God loves us and freely offers us eternal life if we accept Jesus as our Savior. Different translations exist in an effort to make the Bible understandable to various audiences; however, the major doctrines—and the person of Jesus Christ—remain the same.

If you’re curious about Jesus or what the Bible says about Him, read the book of John in the Bible. It’s a great place to start.

Daily Light – February 15, 2019

Friends:  I send you this belated Valentine’s Day gift…in this article by Ann Voskamp  (thanks to Jenifer)

Dear Us: Why We Can Give Up on a “Happy Marriage”: 3 Secrets to Grow Something Far Better

Dear Us:

So — where along the line did we give up on trying to have a happy marriage?

I guess it was when you and I looked long into each other’s eyes and realized:

Marriage isn’t about staying happy — marriage is about staying growing.

So maybe — tossing that whole sham of always-happiness was good riddance?

Happiness-centered marriages implode —because that shifting centre won’t hold.

But I’d written down what my therapist said and we keep talking about it over the early caffeine:

Any ecosystem that remains always the same, never changes — is stagnant. Is dying.If a relationship isn’t changing, growing — it’s dying.

The bottom line is: Pursuing an unchangeable state of happiness will lead you to a stagnant state of despair.

There’s no such thing as unchanging happiness — happiness comes and goes like passing weather fronts — and the only thing that is unchanging is change itself.

Health means always growing — which means always changing. And nothing changes — unless what is — is broken out of.

Healthy relationships have a healthy relationship with breaking and changing, with dyings and risings — with the status quo shell breakings — and steadily new emergings.

You and I, we can trace the break lines — and I can still feel the pain stitched together with thanks:

The suffering of a breaking seed — is what grows growth.

Haven’t we known the pain and the truth of just that? Crushing suffering breaks open a seed of growth.

The two become one not to become settled, but to become stronger — to persevere and suffer and grow a new life together.

I have found you and we can testify: Marriage isn’t a playground.

Marriage is a field — where the hard places are broken up by suffering, and the dry places are softened by a rain of tears, and what dies falls into the shattered, surrendered earth — and there is patient nourishing and cultivating and praying in the long waiting — until the field yields.

Marriage is a field — and we are here to be yielded ground broken open — until this field yields.

So this is what we’ve done, in our giving up being happily married — to be honestly growing-in-grace in our marriage:

1. Cupping Each Other. Daily.

You know, we could have gotten bogged down in all the life-logistics — the kids and the bills and the car-pooling that can drown — we could have very well let the pace of things dupe us into staying in the shallows.

But there’s this rhythm that you’ve stumbled into, that we’ve found that lets us keep finding each other, keep holding each other, keep letting go to let their be growth.

You find a steaming cup of warm — and you come find me — bring me my own cup — and it’s our rhythm:

Drink a cup of warm together and cup each other — no logistical shallows allowed —— only the deep end of fears and dreams and pain and hopes. “What are you afraid of? What are you hoping for? Where are you hurting? How are you dreaming?”

Drink and cup each other in the deep end of bare vulnerability. At least once a day — an early morning or late night cupping.

You drinking me in — my heartbreaks, my hopes, my disappointments and my dreams — has quenched my thirst to be known, for a deeper intimacy.

2. Connection Cues. Constantly.

And how long had I missed it?

You telling me about mileage on the pickup, or about what came in the mail, or what the weather looks on the radar,  — isn’t something for me to shrug or dismiss — it’s a beckoning, an invitation, a Connection Cue.

Me asking if these jeans fit right, or what to think of the thesis of this book, or when works for the next doctor’s appointments for the kids  — isn’t something for you throw me a passing glance and an apathetic nod — it’s a call to come closer, a Connection Cue.

In every conversation, every line — is a Connection Cue. A cue to come closer, a cue to attend, a cue to bond deeper, to attach more intimately.

I wish I had known sooner — and we are learning:

Attend to every Connection Cue wholeheartedly — or you end up with a broken heart.

The rich relationships are the ones that pay attention.

If you want relational healthiness, practice attentiveness.

You are the story I want to read again every night, the story I never tire of hearing again and again, and you have loved me, day after faithful day, line after line, back to hope, and ours is the story that I never want to end.

3. Care-full. Always.

You know what you’ve done? What we are doing? In a world full of cares — we are care-full with each other.

I see how you do it in a thousand everyday ways, how we are growing: Full of care for each other’s needs, full of care for each other’s challenges, full of care for each other’s hardest and most fragile places. We are care-full with our asks — and each other’s asks. We are care-full with our words, care-full with our support, care-full with our presence.

The way you have covered my brokenness with tenderness, the way you have known my rawest shames, and have bound them up, instead of lauding them over me. A thousand times you could have said things that destroyed me — but you’ve chosen to be care-full with me, grow me, heal me, strengthen me, because you: only speak words that make souls stronger.

(And things you have said in hard moments that have haunted me? We have revisited and kept revisiting— until that ghost has finally given up the ghost.)

Care-full relationships know hearts are actually fragile — and relationship can painfully break.

Being care-full with another’s heart — is believing they have a soft heart — and not a hard heart of stone. Soft hearts — break. Soft hearts require that we be care-full.

Being care-full with each other — is how we care for each other.

Your grace is my oxygen and your kindness is my healing and I’d shrivel up and die without your love.

I smiled over at you this morning. Why want a happy marriage when you could have a growing-in-grace marriage?

And this is who we are growing into:

We are cultivating a growing marriage by:

Cupping each other. Daily.

Connecting to Cues. Constantly.

Care-full. Always.

It’s true — I have just about broke us.

But when I watch you last week, bent over that snapped fine gold chain of mine, wielding a pair of pliars, trying with those huge Dutch hands of yours to repair my broken necklace with that pendant engraved with “Beloved” — I realize:

The way we stay each other’s beloved forever — is to keep breaking, changing, and growing together.

And I brim and blur, watching you trying to repair my strand of broken belovedness, and I keep telling you, still with your winter work coat on, that you don’t have time for this, that you have more important things to do than trying to find and fix the busted links — but you look up at me:

“I’ll take as long as it takes — to fix and change whatever I have to — so you get to wear — your Belovedness.”

And I read your eyes reading mine.

Read your eyes searching mine, saying more, saying all the things that don’t need to be said again — and neither of us move but the space between us evaporates, and there is a closeness, a belovedness, that says everything:

We get to be the person who does this for the other, who get to cup each other’s vulnerability, who get to read all the connection cues, who get to be the care-full, who care enough to cultivate and grow love large.

When you hand me the necklace, broken and repaired, I nod, your eyes holding mine.

The real romantics are always the boring ones — who let another heart bore a hole deep into theirs.

You nod slowly:  Real love is making whole decades of every moment tell the whole truth about the whole growing-in-grace gospel. 

And in that moment, your eyes smiling into mine, I could feel it all over again:

How marriage is two people who keep reaching and stretching and unfurling and growing in a thousand little ways, grace growing us into the deepest joy that lasts forever.

Ann Voskamp is the author of the New York Times Best Sellers: The Broken WayOne Thousand GiftsThe Greatest Gift & Unwrapping the Greatest Gift

Daily Light – February 14, 2019

Today’s Daily Light 

The ‘I AM’s’ of Jesus

(The following is a sermon Billy Graham preached at Pure Heart Church, in Shanghai, China, April 24, 1988.)

The mighty God of the universe calls Himself I AM. In Exodus 3:14, the Bible says, “And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM” (KJV). Moses had said, “When I go down to Egypt and the people ask me who sent me, what shall I tell them” (Cf. Exodus 3:13). God said, “You tell them that I AM sent you.”

Jesus completed the statement that was given to Moses. Seven times in the Gospel of John He uses the expression, “I am.” First He said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger” (John 6:35).

In China I know you have a lot of rice, but you also have bread. Without bread or rice, a meal would not seem like a meal. Jesus fed the physically hungry. But Jesus’ greatest concern was for people with spiritual hunger.

A doctor in America said some time ago that more people die of loneliness and guilt and depression and insecurity and heart hunger than die of physical starvation. Bread in the Bible is the symbol of spiritual life. People all over the world are the same; they have an inborn hunger for something, and that something is Christ. People cannot be satisfied with anything less than Christ. Jesus said, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven” (Cf. John 6:33). “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever” (John 6:51).

How do you receive this living bread? In America in years past, we had a terrible disease called polio. It left people crippled for life. Many people died from it. Then a vaccine was discovered, and polio was almost wiped out. When I took a vaccination for polio, they gave me a little white wafer. They put a little bit of medicine on it, and I ate it and swallowed it. That was the vaccination. It seemed so simple, such a painless act.

To receive Christ into your heart seems so simple. You just open your heart and say, “Lord Jesus, come in. I’m willing to turn from my sins and receive You as my Lord and Savior.” Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger” (John 6:35). This bread satisfies the inner longings and hungers of the human heart. Have you taken of that bread? You must repent of your sins, change your mind, turn your back on sin and receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

Second, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). Scientists say they do not know what light is. We know the effects of the sun, but we don’t exactly know all about it. We know that no plant or animal or human life on this earth can live without light.

God put the sun a precise distance from the earth. If the sun were a few kilometers closer to us, we would all be burned up. If it were farther from us, we would freeze to death.

What the sun is to the earth, Jesus Christ is to the human heart. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12). As I’ve traveled around the world, I’ve seen the light of thousands of Christian hospitals and Christian educational institutions; I see this light shining across the world, extending our Christian hand of compassion to a needy world. But more than helping the body, I see it coming into the souls of people. You have a body. But the Bible also says you have a soul, a spirit living inside of you. When you die, your body goes to the grave. But the spirit, the real you, lives on forever. Jesus said if you come to Him, you will live with Him.

In America many people are stumbling like blind people, going through life searching for something that they don’t have. Oh, they have money. They have television sets. They may have an automobile. They have all those things, but they’re not happy. Peace is not in their heart. Why? Because they don’t know Christ. Jesus Christ is the One that brings peace in our hearts. He turns His light on in our hearts.

Third, Jesus said, “I am the door” (John 10:9). Every building I’ve ever been in has an entrance somewhere. The Kingdom of God also has an entrance. It is Jesus Christ. Jesus was probably familiar with doors because He was the son of a carpenter. He had probably made many doors. Now, a building may have many doors. But God has only one door to His Kingdom, and that door is Jesus Christ.

Fourth, Jesus said, “I am the true vine” (John 15:1). It was close to the time when He was to die, and He was having a last meal with His disciples. He said some wonderful things to them. He said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit” (John 15:5).

When you receive Christ, He gives you the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit produces fruit in your life. What kind of fruit? Love. He gives you supernatural power to love even people you don’t like. Joy is another fruit. Joy in the midst of all kinds of problems and suffering. There’s peace. You have peace in your heart. And then you have patience, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control. These are produced by the Holy Spirit. And you can live that kind of life with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Fifth, Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Sheep could not exist without a shepherd. The wolves and the wild dogs and the thieves would get them. And they would wander off, because sheep cannot see very far. The Bible says, “All we like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6). Man is like sheep. We wander around blind; we get lost. We’re lost from God. We’ve strayed from God.

My family and I live in a mountain log cabin in the southern part of the United States. We have a lawn and a pasture, so we decided we were going to get three sheep to help chew the grass. We put up a fence, hoping they wouldn’t get lost, but sometimes they got out and couldn’t find their way back.

Jesus tells a story of a lost sheep. This farmer had 99 sheep that were safe, but one had wandered away. He was lost. So this shepherd decided that he was going to go after the one lost sheep. After much searching, he found the sheep. And he called all of his friends together, and they rejoiced because he had found the sheep (Luke 15:4-6).

Are you that one lost sheep? Jesus Christ would have died on the cross if no one had been lost but you. God loves you and He’s searching for you.

The shepherd lives with his sheep. He gives them food and protection and security. Jesus said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Whatever happens, however sick you may get–you may lose a child, you may lose a father or a mother–Jesus is with you. You’re the sheep; He’s the shepherd. He loves you, and He gave His life for you. When He died on the cross, God took all of our sins and laid them on Him.

Sixth, Jesus said in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life.” He offers us eternal life. One day one of Jesus’ friends died, and Jesus raised him from the dead. He said to Lazarus, “Lazarus, come forth!” And Lazarus came out of the grave (John 11:11-44). This is an example of what Jesus can do for us spiritually. We can become new creatures. Jesus said we can be born again, and we don’t have to enter our mother’s womb to be born again (John 3:3-7). We are born again spiritually. That could happen to you. It could start tonight.

Seventh, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). In John 6:44, He says, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” This is how we come to God. The Holy Spirit will use an incident in your life to speak to you. It may be when you’re quietly meditating or thinking. Or it may be when you’re walking down the street with thousands of people. In the midst of all those people God can speak to you. He uses the Holy Spirit to convict people of their need of God. He draws us. He urges us to receive His Son, Jesus Christ, as the fulfillment of our life, the One who can forgive our sins, the One who can give us eternal life. Will you make that commitment?

Daily Light – February 13, 2019

How Soon Will Jesus Return

Living in the Last Days

(article by John Bloom, staff writer, desiringGod.org)

The “last days” began with the first coming of Jesus (Hebrews 1:2). From the time of Jesus’s ascension to the closing of the New Testament canon, the apostles believed Jesus’s return would be “soon” (Acts 1:10–11Revelation 22:20). They lived with their eyes to the skies. And this belief informed the way they instructed the early Christians to live. For example, Paul says,

This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. . . . For the present form of this world is passing away. (1 Corinthians 7:2931)

Now it’s been nearly two thousand years since Paul urgently put quill to papyrus and wrote those Spirit-inspired words. And here we are. The world has not yet passed away — but about a hundred human generations have. A “very short” time has turned out to be much longer than nearly everyone, except the Father, expected (Mark 13:32).

As a result, many of us struggle to feel the urgency Paul felt, and live like he instructed. How do we live in the last days that have lasted so long and may last for generations longer? The Bible addresses this question clearly so all Christians may know how to live without cynicism or apathy in these last days. We need to remember a few important truths.

Remember We Live in God-Time

The first truth to keep in mind is that God marks time differently than we do. Moses wrote, “A thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night” (Psalm 90:4). And the apostle Peter wrote, “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). It’s only been two God-days since Jesus ascended and Paul wrote.

The better we know our Bibles, the more we grasp that the Ancient of Days’s soon is typically not our soon (Daniel 7:9Revelation 22:7). What seems slow to us is not slow to God. Nothing in the New Testament demands that these last days be fewer than they’ve been.

Yes, many people have said and still say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:4). Here we are duly warned that Jesus’s return will seem ridiculously delayed — but he is not late.

Remember the Bridegroom’s Delay

Jesus himself warned us of this. First, he listed off some signs he said must take place before he returned:

An accrual of very compelling, powerful false prophets who lead many astray on a scale large enough to be recognized by the church everywhere (Matthew 24:4–51124–28);

A remarkable and frightening amount of natural and national calamities (Matthew 24:7–8);

An unprecedented level of persecution of Christians, along with an imminent threat of global human extinction (Matthew 24:21–22);

And the “gospel of the kingdom [would] be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations” (Matthew 24:14).

Jesus said he would not return until these (and other) conditions are met. Which is why he told the parable of the ten virgins. Jesus described the bridegroom as being “delayed” — so delayed that the wedding attendants “became drowsy” (Matthew 25:5). In other words, Jesus wanted us to expect his coming to take longer than expected.

And it’s important to remember that the Bridegroom “delays” out of unsurpassed love for his bride. Hear his heart: “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). The Bridegroom will not allow a single person who is part of his Bride to be abandoned. His is a patient, purposeful, passionate procrastination.

Remember Life Is Short

If Jesus does not return during our lifetimes, we’re all going to meet him soon — sooner than we expect. Most of us will find this meeting as surprising as suddenly seeing him in the clouds.

Listen to this sampling of the Bible’s descriptions of our lifespans: “a breath” (Job 7:7); “a few handbreadths” (Psalm 39:5); “grass” that lasts a day (Psalm 90:5–6); “smoke” (Psalm 102:3); “a passing shadow” (Psalm 144:4); “a [vanishing] mist” (James 4:14). We do not know whether our souls will be required of us tonight (Luke 12:20) or whether we will live to see next year (James 4:13–14).

If Jesus’s return is not “very short” to us, our lifespans will be — whether we live to be twenty or ninety. In these last days — the world’s or ours — we need to pray often that God would “teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). Our days are infected with evil and often consumed with “toil and trouble” (Psalm 90:10); we really need God’s wisdom to spend what brief time we have on what really matters most (Ephesians 5:15–17).

Remember the Fig Leaves

Jesus told another parable to help us to watch the signs of the times with discerning eyes.

From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. (Matthew 24:32–33)

We may not know the day or the hour of Jesus’s return, but he expects us to watch for the signs he gave and discern them. He does not intend his coming to be a complete shock to us. He wants us to notice the changing of the leaves:

Have you noticed the proliferation of influential false prophets (not all religious)?

Have you noticed the scale of natural and national calamities over the past 120 years and the rising “fear and . . . foreboding of what is coming on the world” (Luke 21:25–26)?

Have you noticed the increasing levels of global hostility toward Christians as well as the increasing approval of the kinds of depravity Paul said would characterize people living in the last days (2 Timothy 3:1–5)?

Have you noticed the fresh reminders of the existent powers’ ability to eradicate humanity?

Have you noticed the unprecedented, nearly incredible advances of the gospel over the past 290 years — especially the past 120 years? There’s been nothing like the explosive growth of the Christian movement since 1900 in the history of religion — all the more amazing when we consider the ethnic, cultural, and geographical diversity of this growth.

Are you watching the leaves?

Watch, Pray, and Travel Light

“Be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44). Jesus meant for his return to feel potentially imminent in each generation, while also helping each generation anticipate his potential delay.

Jesus is coming back when the God-days are full, when the conditions are met, when his bride is ready, and when the summer leaves have reached their peak. It won’t be long before God’s soon is surprisingly soon to us. But even if we meet death before we meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17), we will meet him soon.

Living the last days now is not really any different than it was for the first-generation Christians. We stay ready the same way they were to stay ready:

We watch the signs.

We pray for laborers to be sent into the harvest (Luke 10:2) — and say with Isaiah, “Here I am! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8) — and pray for the Lord to return (Revelation 22:20).

We encourage one another with our hope of resurrection and the Lord’s return (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18).

We travel light. We are exiles and sojourners here. We must not encumber ourselves with unnecessary baggage and treasures here because our real homeland and our real Treasure is up ahead (Matthew 6:19–20). And that’s where we want our hearts to be (Matthew 6:21).

Four thousand years ago, our ancestors in the faith began to live like “strangers and exiles on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13). That was two thousand years before Jesus came and launched the last days. And we who live two thousand years after he came are no less strangers and exiles, because we too “desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:16). And we’re going to be there soon — sooner than we expect.

Jon Bloom (@Bloom_Jon) serves as author, board chair, and co-founder of Desiring God. He is author of three books, Not by SightThings Not Seen, and Don’t Follow Your Heart. He and his wife have five children and make their home in the Twin Cities.

Daily Light – February 12, 2019

Waiting When God Seems Silent

(article by Randy Alcorn)

In a time of suffering, David engaged in righteous self-talk about how he should respond in light of God’s goodness: “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14).

The call to wait on God is an invitation to trust and hope. It entails believing that one day — even if today is not that day — he will make all things right. In times of waiting, as we seek God in prayer, we must learn to listen to him as well as talk to him — to shut out the clatter and quietly wait as he unfolds to us his person, purposes, promises, and plan.

But what about when we wait and listen, and God still seems silent?

God Is Near

In Deserted by God? Sinclair Ferguson discusses what our Christian forefathers called “spiritual desertion” — the sense that God has forgotten us, leaving us feeling isolated and directionless. But through faith, we can affirm God’s loving presence, even when he seems silent and we feel deserted. “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8) is a promise God will not break, despite how we feel.

Several years ago, for no apparent reason, I went through four months of depression. I had to learn to trust God for his presence despite what I felt. Eventually, as I continued to open his word daily and seek his face, while still in that depression, I gradually regained my ability to sense and hear him.

Many of us have walked the Emmaus road (Luke 24:13–32). Overwhelmed by sorrow. Plagued by questions. We wonder where God is. When, all along, he walks beside us.

Is This Your Best for Me?

A pastor friend told me about his experience after his teenage son’s death: “Nearly every morning, for months, I screamed questions at God. I asked, ‘What were you thinking?’ And, ‘Is this your best for me?’ And finally, ‘Do you really expect me to show up every Sunday and tell everyone how great you are?’ Then, when I became silent, God spoke to my soul. He had an answer for each of my questions.”

Waiting on God involves learning to lay our questions before him. It means that there is something better than knowing all the answers: knowing and trusting the only One who does know and will never forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

Trusting God when we don’t hear him ultimately strengthens and purifies us. If our faith is based on lack of struggle and affliction and absence of doubt and questions, that’s a foundation of sand. Such faith is only one frightening diagnosis or shattering phone call away from collapse. Token faith will not survive the dark night of the soul. When we think God is silent or absent, God may show us that our faith is false or superficial. Upon its ruin, we can learn to rebuild on God our Rock, the only foundation that can bear the weight of our trust.

His Silence Is a Matter of Perspective

There’s a sense in which God is never silent. He has already spoken in his word and by becoming man and dying for us on the cross, purchasing our eternal salvation. This is speech, and speech is not silence! What we call God’s silence may actually be our inability, or in some cases (certainly not all) our unwillingness, to hear him. Fortunately, that hearing loss for God’s children need not be permanent. And given the promise of resurrection, it certainly won’t be permanent.

Psalm 19:1 tells us the heavens shout about God’s glory. Romans 1:20 shows how clearly creation proves God’s existence. God speaks not only through his word, but also through his world. When my heart is heavy, walking our dog Maggie or riding a bike through Oregon’s beauties is often better than listening to a great sermon or reading a good book.

Still, when we can’t hear God, we can keep showing up and opening his word, day after day, to look at what he has already said — and done — and contemplate and memorize it until we realize this is not silence but is God speaking to us. Naturally, there remains a subjective sense in which we long to hear God in a more personal way. God spoke to Elijah in “a low whisper” (1 Kings 19:12).

The problem with low whispers is they’re not easy to hear — especially when all around us the wind is howling! Why does God sometimes speak so quietly that it’s hard to hear him? The answer may be to bring us to the end of ourselves. To prompt us to be still and seek him. And to build our faith and eventually speak more clearly or heal our hearing problem.

When Life Goes Dark

Martin Luther’s wife, Katherine, saw him discouraged and unresponsive for some time. One day she dressed in black mourning clothes. Luther asked her why. “Someone has died,” she said. “Who?” Luther asked. “It seems,” Katherine said, “that God must have died!” Luther got her point. Since God hadn’t died, he needed to stop acting as if he had.

What can we do when God seems silent and life is dark? We can pray with biblical writers who cry out to God:

To you, O Lord, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me, lest, if you be silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit. (Psalm 28:1)

O God, do not keep silence; do not hold your peace or be still, O God! (Psalm 83:1)

I cry to you for help and you do not answer me; I stand, and you only look at me. (Job 30:20)

We also can remember that, however long the silence seems, God promises it is temporary. Consider Zephaniah 3:17:

The Lord your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, he will be quiet in his love, he will rejoice over you with shouts of joy. (NASB)

Just because we can’t hear God exulting doesn’t mean he is not rejoicing over us with shouts of joy. A blind or deaf child may not see her father’s face or hear his words, but can learn to sense his love and affection nonetheless. The blood-bought promise states that this brief life will be followed with an eternity in which his children “will see his face” (Revelation 22:4).

My Soul Waits for God

My wife, Nanci, while going through chemotherapy treatments that ended just a few months ago, read me this from Andrew Murray’s Waiting on God: “It is God’s Spirit who has begun the work in you of waiting upon God. He will enable you to wait. . . . Waiting continually will be met and rewarded by God himself working continually.”

“For God alone my soul waits in silence . . . my hope is from him” (Psalm 62:15). If we lean on him while we wait, God will give us the grace to wait and to listen carefully as we pray, go to trusted Christ-followers for encouragement, and keep opening his word and asking him to help us hear him.

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is a bestselling author of many books and the director of Eternal Perspective Ministries

Daily Light – February 11, 2019

dut·i·ful·ly Dictionary result for dutifully/ˈd(y)o͞odəfəlē/adverbadverb: dutifully in a conscientious or obedient manner. “I dutifully reported the accident “in a manner motivated by duty rather than desire or enthusiasm.” we all dutifully applauded the support act”

Don’t Date Christ ‘Dutifully’

(excerpt from message by John Piper)

How does a life devoted to satisfaction in Christ glorify Christ? Now, you all know intuitively that it does. Yes, you do. Every single person in this room knows it, unless you’re mentally ill — and I mean that seriously. Mentally ill people may not be able to grasp this kind of thing, and it’s tragic.

You all know that to spend time with someone because you have to is belittling to them. And to spend time with them because you want to honors them. Every single one of you knows that. You feel it. It’s written on your heart.

“When you desire Christ above all things, you implicitly show that Christ is valuable, precious, desirable — a treasure.”

Dutiful dating is demeaning. Dating for joy is honoring. Everybody knows this. Most people have probably never articulated it to themselves. They just live it. They know this — unless they’re sick. But how does it work? We all know it’s true. It does work.

Let me take you to a passage in Job. I know it’s spoken by Eliphaz: bad guy with very good theology — totally misused. Ninety percent of what Job’s counselors say is right, and then they use it all wrong. They hurt people with it. So, if he hadn’t used this sentence against Job, we would all sing it, and I am going to read it as true, because it is true. Here’s what he said:

If you lay gold in the dust . . . then the Almighty will be your gold. . . . For then you will delight yourself in the Almighty. (Job 22:24–26)

This is the meaning of Jesus’s statement, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). If you stop seeing earthly gold as your treasure, and you start seeing the Almighty as your treasure, your heart will follow this new seeing with delight.

Which means that you can follow that experience backward as well. Where a person finds supreme delight in God as his gold, God is shown to be a treasure, and the gold of the earth inferior. And there is the answer to how a life devoted to satisfaction in Christ glorifies Christ.

When you desire Christ above all things, you implicitly show that Christ is valuable, precious, desirable — a treasure. And the more intensely you desire him, and the more suffering you are willing to endure without losing your satisfaction in him, the more valuable you show him to be.

That is the meaning of glorifying Christ. That’s what it means. The intensity of my treasuring communicates the worth of the treasure. That’s what it means to glorify the treasure. Christ is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him.

Therefore, yes, Christian Hedonism — a life devoted to enjoying Christ above all — is essential for the human heart to glorify Christ as he deserves.