Light for Your Path

It’s one thing to fear physical darkness and things that go bump in the night. Every year, at the end of October, we get our fill of movies and TV programs that feed off of those kinds of fears.

It’s another thing entirely to endure emotional darkness. Emotional darkness takes many forms, and none of them are the least bit pleasant. Confusion, depression, feelings of deep shame and guilt, fears of being exposed as a fraud, obsessions and compulsions that we feel powerless to overcome — all of these can lead to feelings of deep darkness.

But the worst kind of darkness is spiritual darkness. Because it’s a deceptive, stealthy kind of darkness — a deep shroud of darkness we may not initially recognize as darkness. In fact, many who walk in spiritual darkness are absolutely convinced that they’re walking in the brightest of light. But sadly, it’s the complete opposite. It’s the very deepest kind of darkness.

Paul, the apostle, talks about those trapped in spiritual darkness as he writes to Titus. He says, In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good” (Titus 1:15b-16).

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

By the grace of God, we have been given a light that can drive out the deepest spiritual darkness. It can flood our hearts with light. It can shine a spotlight on our footsteps, and show us the path to God.

God’s word is that light. And you can pick up that light as easily as picking up your Bible. It probably doesn’t even weigh as much as that flashlight you keep in your kitchen drawer. But spiritually, it has megawatt power and great luminous intensity!

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Psalm 119:105, NIV).

Lord Jesus, I thank you for your word. And I thank you that your word points me to you, my Savior and my Lord. May the Bible always shed the light of your grace into my heart, guide my footsteps, and light my path until I am at your side eternally.

Our Bible reading for Monday, October 26, is Jeremiah 52:1-34, Titus 1:1-16 and Psalm 119:105-112.

Header image based on "Lighting the way" by Stephen Bowler, CC By 2.0

Letters from Home

Augustine of Hippo (350-430 AD), one of the early Church Fathers, and a deeply respected theologian and philosopher, once said about the Bible, “The Holy Scriptures are our letters from home.”

If you’ve ever lived far from home, you know the power of that statement. When you are on the other side of the country (or the other side of the world) and you get a letter from home — you treasure every word. You pore over it again and again. Those words reconnect you with your loved ones.

Paul encourages young pastor Timothy to treasure every word of the Bible like a letter from home. In the previous verses, he has just reminded Timothy that he lives in a world that is not friendly territory for the Christ-follower. He says, “There will be terrible times in the last days… in fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:1, 12, NIV).

But as Timothy lives like a stranger in a strange and hostile land, he can stay connected to his Father through these letters from home. Timothy had grown up in the scriptures. They were familiar territory to him. And this was not the time to abandon them. Rather, he should double-down on them.

Paul explains why. The Bible is useful. And the Bible is inspired. If Timothy wants to be wise and ready for eternal salvation, he simply needs to keep on studying the Bible. If Timothy wants to know the things that will make him wise for life right here, right now, he can read the Bible and meditate on it.

There’s nothing like the Bible to show us the truth, and keep us safe from self-deception, the world’s myths, and the devil’s lies.

There’s nothing like the written word of God for exposing our personal rebellion against God, for correcting our mistakes, or for training us to live God’s way.

Better yet, there’s nothing like the gospel to point out Jesus’ love for rebellious sinners, Jesus’ willingness to pay the price for our mistakes, or Jesus’ self-sacrificial kindness in taking our place and living God’s way on our behalf.

These letters from home remind us where we came from and whose we are. And they show us how to get home again from this strange, hostile land we now live in.

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:14-17, NIV).

Lord, help me to continue in what I have learned from you in the Bible. Help me to stay convinced by your Spirit’s power that Jesus is my Lord and my Savior. Help me to place full confidence in your word, and to know that it is truly useful to me.

Our Bible reading for Saturday, October 24, is Jeremiah 50:11 – 51:14, 2 Timothy 3:1-17 and Psalm 119:89-96.

Header image based on "Letter from Kenya" by Jeff Turner, CC By 2.0

Is Your Faith Secure?

Do you have anti-virus software on your computer? Is your network behind a firewall?

“Of course!” you respond. “That’s hugely important. Vital, really.”

It’s hard to deny. With as many viruses and hackers as there are in today’s world, it’s crucial. It’s really foolish not to have it.

As Paul wrapped up his letter to the Romans, he encouraged them to build a spiritual firewall against hackers wanting to invade the “network” of the Roman church. He encouraged them to install doctrinal anti-virus to protect their hearts.

The apostle had been around the block a time or two. He knew well that even with intense security, there were many “viruses” and “hackers” who would still try to invade the church, and rob the Roman Christ-followers of their most treasured possession — their faith in Christ.

Today, Paul issues the same strong warning to us. False, unbiblical teaching is a “virus” we can’t afford to allow inside our churches or our own hearts. False teachers are nothing more than “hackers” that want to seek out and exploit the weaknesses in our faith.

Watch out for them, Paul commands. And keep away from them.

Because the Bible has everything we need to know God, to trust in Jesus as our Savior, to find forgiveness for our sins, and to discover the path to eternal life.

Anything else — anything not found in the Bible — is nothing more than a corruption of the truth. It’s a contagion that will threaten the security of your faith!

I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them (Romans 16:17, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Monday, August 3, is 1 Chronicles 15:1 – 16:36, Romans 16:1-27, and Psalm 90:11-17.

Lord, protect me and my church from viruses and hackers. Jesus called them “wolves.” Help me to be strong in your word, so that I am protected from the damage that false teachings and false teachers can do.

Header image based on "Virus" by Yuri Samoilov, CC By 2.0

Where to Look When You’re Hurting

There’s a little voice inside all of our heads that likes to speak up when we’re in the midst of trouble and hard times.

And this voice likes to say something along these lines: “If God really loved me, and if God really had his eye on me, and if God is all-powerful as he claims to be, then why wouldn’t he prevent all these troubles and hardships? What’s the point? Why would a loving, powerful God want to see me suffer like this?”

That voice can be a powerful voice at times. And listening to it can really derail our faith.

“God has forgotten me,” it tells us.

Or, “God does not want me,” or “God hates me,” or worst of all, “There is no such thing as God.” After all, we think, if there really were a loving God, why would he continue to let me twist in the wind in such agony and misery?

This is why it’s so important to constantly go back to the promises of the Bible and have our hearts and minds informed from the word of God rather than from our own human reasoning based on current events in our lives. If we try to figure things out without the word of God, our judgment will be clouded and we’ll end up reaching the wrong conclusions.

Paul directed the Romans’ attention to God’s promises and God’s heart, reminding them that God’s true intentions with all of us are motivated by love. When we’re determined to go our own way, he may allow us the freedom to go that way. But his goal is never our destruction or death. He takes no pleasure in rejecting us or removing us from his presence.

God’s end game is always to move us toward reconciliation and eternal salvation. Think of the story of the Prodigal Son. Everything he does is designed to lead us back into his loving, forgiving and merciful arms.

“For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all” (Romans 11:32, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Tuesday, July 28, is 1 Chronicles 4:9 – 5:26, Romans 11:11-32 and Psalm 89:19-29.

Lord, help me to always look to your words and promises in tough times. In my troubled heart, I am tempted to believe that you are so angry with me that you want to cut me off from your love. Assure me always that nothing pleases you more than when I turn away from my sins and return to you. Help me to know that you will welcome me with open and loving arms.

Header image based on "eyes" by Ahmed Sinan, CC By 2.0

Track Record

Sometimes when we go through really tough times in life, we begin to question God’s love for us, or God’s ability to change things for the better.

Asaph, who wrote Psalm 77, demonstrates a good approach for times like this. He shows us that, as he goes through his own tough times and doubts, he takes the opportunity to step back and remember that God has a track record.

And that track record is one we all ought to examine from time to time. We’ll find a pattern of love. We’ll discover a habit of grace and mercy. We’ll observe a custom of displaying infinite power — for just the right reasons, at just the right time.

Which quite possibly begs the question: Is this the right time for you to remember God’s track record, to consider it, to meditate on it, even?

You can find that amazing track record right here in the Bible!

“I will remember the deeds of the Lordyes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds” (Psalm 77:11-15, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Tuesday, June 23, is 1 Kings 11:14 – 12:24, Acts 15:22-41 and Psalm 77:10-20.

Lord, help me recall your track record. Help me remember your deeds and miracles, your works and might. Most of all, help me remember your grace and mercy in Jesus Christ, your Son, my Lord and my Savior.

Header image based on "Avalanche Lake" by Greg Willis, CC By-SA 2.0

Living Words

Stephen was held in high regard in the early days of the Christian church. Luke tells us Stephen was “a man full of God’s grace and power” who “did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people” (Acts 6:8, NIV).

Stephen is trying to get through to people who have hardened their hearts against Christ. So he takes them back in history to the beginnings of their faith — back to Abraham, the Patriarchs and Moses.

What Stephen hopes to do is show them that the Jesus they are rejecting is the very Jesus that had long been prophesied. And in the midst of this history lesson, Stephen says something really interesting. Moses received words from an angel, he says. These words were “living words.”

The author of the book of Hebrews says something very similar: “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12, NIV).

When Moses spoke, or Stephen spoke, or you and I speak of Jesus, we can be confident. Because the words of the gospel are not ordinary words. They’re extraordinary, supernatural words that contain the power to give life, and to change lives for eternity.

There are no other words like these. They contain powerful ideas, but they are so much more than simply a vehicle for the communication of ideas. They are Spirit-produced, and Spirit-conveying words.

What will we do with these words? Hopefully, by God’s grace, we will listen to them, believe them, and allow them to shape our entire life.

These words truly do give life. And they really do change lives. I’ve experienced that. And I hope you will too.

And the cool thing? With these “living words” at our disposal, we don’t have a thing to prove. We’re not forced into the role of God’s defense attorney, needing to “make a case” for him. We’re simply a witness to Jesus, using his living and life-giving word to tell others of his love and power.

“This is the Moses who told the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your own people.’ He was in the assembly in the wilderness, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors; and he received living words to pass on to us” (Acts 7:37-38, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Thursday, June 11, is 2 Samuel 16:15 – 18:18, Acts 7:20-43 and Psalm 72:1-20.

Lord, your word is living and powerful. May it work an unassailable faith in my heart. Give me the joy of sharing these living, active words with others that many people may know Jesus as their Savior and their Lord.

Header image based on "Bible" by Nicholas LabyrinthX, CC By-SA 2.0

Why the Bible?

People have many theories about why the Bible was written.

Some think of it as merely a collection of spiritual fables. Some think it is an instruction book for improving morality. Some think it’s just good classic literature, helpful for understanding Western culture’s religious thinking and Judeo-Christian ethic.

But the authors, the ones who actually did the writing, tell us that they wrote for an entirely different reason. They had a clear purpose in mind.

They believed firmly that they had met and followed the Son of God, the Savior of the world. They believed they had encountered the one who holds the power over life and death, and the authority to open the gates of eternity to mankind.

They believed Jesus when he said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” So they did not want to keep this information to themselves. They wanted to share it with the world.

So they wrote. And the Bible was the end result. As John the apostle tells us, their purpose was to share life — eternal life.

“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Monday, June 1, is 2 Samuel 1:1 – 2:7, John 20:10-31 and Proverbs 13:20 – 14:4.

Lord, thank you for giving us the Bible. Thank you for John and the other authors who followed you, and recorded your acts. Send me your Spirit that I may believe that you are the Son of God, my Savior, and my Lord, and have eternal life.

Header image based on "bible and ball cap" by Eric Golub, CC By 2.0