light

Friday: Receive Joy

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.

So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.
— The Hope of Eternal Life, from 1 Peter 1:3-9

 

Happiness comes and goes like the tide, completely dependent on our circumstances for existence. But joy? Joy is eternal because its source is the faithfulness of God, which has never, nor will it ever, change. God is faithful. 

When we choose to believe that the same God who was faithful in the past will be faithful in the future, we can experience true joy. Joy comes alive in us even when we know the Valley of the Shadow of Death to be our home address. Joy burgeons in the midst of darkness, grief, suffering and fear, because even though we do not see him now, we trust him. 

Ask Yourself:

In what ways have I forgotten the faithfulness of God? 

In what relationships, times of day, or patterns of behavior have I chosen to believe I am on my own in this struggle? 

When was the last time I considered my need for true Joy rather than happiness?
 

Wednesday: Observe Love

Do you know what hurts so very much? It’s love. Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked that means pain. There are two things we can do when this happens. We can kill that love so that it stops hurting. But then of course part of us dies, too. Or we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel.
— Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place: The Triumphant True Story of Corrie Ten Boom

Corrie ten Boom was a Christian who, along with her family, helped rescue and harbor hundreds of Jews during WWII. Eventually being betrayed and reported to the Nazis, she was imprisoned in Ravensbruck concentration camp. Losing her father and sister, she survived narrowly, going on to write The Hiding Place about her experience.

In the quote above, written after her experiences, she describes love. Contemplate her statements. How has that been true in your life? Have you ever been blocked from love? Have you ever killed love in an attempt to quit hurting? 

Reflect on this Advent season and your preparation for Christmas day:

How would asking God to open up another route for love to travel change your Christmas season? 

Do you think that God can turn that darkness into light?  

Reflect on your relationship with The Light:

How has He continuously loved you through different “routes” when you pushed his love away through sin and self righteousness? 

How has he redeemed those dark places in your life through his inventive love? 
 

Tuesday: Pray for Love

Lord our Light, 

We proclaim your glory. We bask in your kindness and truth. It is because of your great love that we celebrate this season. You, our King, came down as a baby so that we might have true life. It is your tender mercies that we proclaim this season. It is your sacrifice that sees us through this season and every season. 

Help us, our Light, to lay down our hatred and get rid of our lists. Help us to rid our lives of expectations, exchanging them for you. May we ever sing and ever proclaim your great love. May we never forget the heights and the depth of your love and may we live surrounded by your light. 

May your love be manifest in all that we do. To you be all honor and glory and praise. Amen. 
 

Exposed for the Body

It is unfortunate how we have let the performance-based culture we live in make its home within the walls of church buildings.  A repercussion of that indwelling is the adoption of moralism as a standard with which we measure each other’s spirituality. When the misfits and outcasts walk in our doors, they should not feel the same pressure to fit in that the world places on them; but I am afraid they do. I am afraid my hands can be found red in trying to put my best foot forward at church, as if I was in a constant interview for the most-inspirational-member award.

 

If I am guilty, then likely my words that proclaim, “Everyone should come as they are to the foot of the cross,” are not convincing.

 

Testimonies

Most Christians are aware of the power of sharing a testimony of salvation. Some of us have another’s story to thank for its use in our own eternal salvation narrative. Shouldn’t the practice of sharing stories of sanctification hold a similar importance?

If you want to change the world, let the world see how you have been changed.

And if you want to change the Church, let the Church see how you are being changed.

We are quick to share what God teaches us, but rarely find the words to express the state of disobedience that originated the need to be taught. Regrettably though, leaving out confession and vulnerability does little to reach those who look at the mess in their life, and wonder if they will ever be free from it. There is a reason why people with extreme stories of conversion are frequently asked to share- it gives people confidence that if someone who was that far away could be accepted, loved, and saved by Jesus, so can they.

The same could be true if those who others see as "perfect" were to share that they too still need the Lord to “clean them up.” We need more vulnerability in order for the confidence found in salvation to also be found in sanctification. Believers must become more transparent about the dark places in their life, not only so they can be transformed by the light of the Gospel of grace, but also so others can have the courage to come and be cleaned.  

 

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation,

and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,

And sinners will return to you.”
— Psalm 51:12-13

 

The Call

As people, who have all been called to live our life with the mission of making disciples, we need to abandon the performance-based mentality. We need to not see admitting failure as weakness; instead, we need to encourage it as a product of understanding grace.

We do not need to be dishonest in order to “protect” God’s reputation. He is the King of Kings and his fame is unstoppable. We need not be afraid that if we share how messed up we are, that we will discredit the power of the Cross. Instead, it is the denying of our need for redemption that dishonors the importance of Jesus’ sacrifice.

 

What’s the hardest thing about all of this?

It is going to take you. It is going to have to be your life that runs exposed through the church halls. It is going to be your sin, your brokenness, and your fear that others will see. While you may not win the outstanding-Christian award, remember that Jesus himself wouldn’t have either. He would have been too busy hanging out with you, a sinner who was hopeless on your own.

 

Think:

How has someone’s vulnerability encouraged you?

How can you choose to be more vulnerable in your community?

What is holding you back?