Saturday, June 13, 2009


By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going… For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

                        Hebrews 11.8, 10

Taking Off

Any time we tell ourselves following by faith doesn’t give us enough to go on, it’s wise to remember Abraham. He first shows up without fanfare in Genesis 11.27 in of one of those genealogical lists of unpronounceable names the Bible is so fond of. (“Arphaxad became the father of Shelah… Shelah became the father of Eber…”) Chapter 11 ends with Terah, the father of Abraham ( Abram), and his clan leaving their native land for Canaan. For undisclosed reasons, they homestead in a spot called Haran along the way. Then, like a bolt from the blue, Abram’s story takes off in chapter 12: “The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” God promises to make him the father of a great nation, bless him, make him famous, and allow him to bless others.

We can’t pinpoint when God calls Abram, but that “had said” suggests he wrestles a while with the idea. He doesn't get around to taking off for Canaan, evidently where God wanted him all along, until he's 75. And he arrives there too late; pagans rule the land. Still, God promises it to his offspring and even if it will never be his, that’s good enough. Abram builds an altar at Bethel, the site of God’s promise. He never really settles down, though. Famine sends him to Egypt; after Pharaoh tries to steal his wife, he moves to the Negev; from there, Genesis 13.3 reports, “He went from place to place until he came to Bethel.” He’s back at square one. It’s more than not having enough to go on. In dynastic terms, he’s got nothing—no place of his own, no homeland, no nation, not even a successor. By now, people half his age would feel like victims of a practical joke. They’d say, “Get somebody else.” Abram returns to the altar he built long ago and calls on God.

Looking Forward

One expects Abram’s faithfulness to move God to turn things around. But that happens much later than expected. In the meantime, things get worse. His nephew, Lot, causes undue grief by leaving Abram for greener pastures on the outskirts of Sodom. His wife, Sarah, fails to conceive, and his home turns into a war zone after Hagar, a servant, bears his son, Ishmael. At this point, he’s 86 and God has changed his name to Abraham. Then it’s back to the Negev, where another king plots to take Sarah from him. (It seems she’s quite a looker.)  All of 25 years passes before God rewards Abraham’s faith and obedience; he’s 100-years-old when his heir, Isaac, is born.

So what’s up with Abraham? What’s he doing wrong, and why does God take so long to get things started? Which of them is out of synch with the plan? Did Abraham’s reluctance to answer God’s call cause the problem? Or did God send Abraham to Canaan before his time? The Hebrews writer says, “None of the above.” It takes Abraham 25 years to settle and start a family because he refuses to settle. Chapter 11, verse 8 tells us he’s “looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” Faith informs his wisdom and wisdom inspires his patience. Abraham’s confidence in God’s promise is so solid—he’s so utterly convinced he will father a great nation and God will deed Canaan to his heirs—just any old spot won’t do. He won’t compromise by looking around for a suitable location. He wants to build on the right foundation. Until he finds it, by faith, he relentlessly looks forward.

The Master Plan

We can safely challenge anyone to scour the Bible for one example where God tasks someone with an easy assignment. None will be found. The actual deed may require little exertion—speak to a rock, for example, or throw a stone at a giant. On the other hand, it may demand extraordinary trust and endurance—build a big boat and stock it with animals, or spend 25 (or 40) years searching for a specific place. Regardless of the physical and time challenges, every time we read of God calling somebody to do something, what He asks makes no earthly sense whatsoever. That’s because our lives and reality aren’t naturally constructed to the specifications of His master plan.

The elegance of Abraham’s faith comes in trusting God’s design without trying to understand it. The elegance of God’s architecture comes in the wondrous beauty rising from His eternal foundation. In 1 Corinthians 2.9, Paul writes, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him,” restating it in Ephesians 3.20: “He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” What God does in our lives shouldn’t make sense. Our vision, understanding, and creative capacity are too meager to comprehend it. But if, like Abraham, we ignore what’s presently around us and keep looking forward, the day when we’re able to fully appreciate His work will arrive.

God’s master plan for us is so far beyond our comprehension, it shouldn’t make sense. So why does that bother us so much?

(Tomorrow: Coming and Going)

Personal Postscript: Taking a Break

Walt and I are off for a week’s vacation, which we both can really use right now. Being away provides the perfect chance to repost a series from last fall based on Ecclesiastes’ “To everything there is a season” text. Of all the series/themes we’ve explored so far, this strikes me as the best. So while we’re gone, I hope you’ll still be here to read or revisit it.

Of course, not a day will go by without thinking of you and remembering all of you in my prayers. And I’ll keep in touch with your comments and emails through the week. We ask your prayers for safe travels and daily protection.

Blessings always,


Friday, June 12, 2009

Rock Talk

The LORD said to Moses, “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water.”

                        Numbers 20.8

Too Harsh?

I first visited Arizona with a close friend whose calm demeanor carried no trace of a reckless streak I’d never seen before this trip. He rented a convertible, woke me up, and said, “Get dressed. We’re going to see the desert.” We drove out of Phoenix with nothing but a few jazz cassettes in the car—no map, no water, and frankly, no idea what we were doing. Lulled along by music and sage air, we lost touch with reality until Frank asked, “How long have we been driving?” I told him a little over three hours and asked why. He held up his hand. I’d seen this before. He was running numbers in his head. He turned the car around and said, “We’re down to a quarter tank of gas. I I think we can make it back.” I wondered if I should start praying. “Not a bad idea,” he said.  We left the desert on fumes—but I won’t lie: I spent the drive fighting the image of two sun-bleached skeletons sitting in a dusty convertible in the middle of nowhere.

Numbers 20 finds the Israelites where we were, off the beaten path with no map or water or visible help. Like always, they turn on Moses. “We’re in middle of nowhere with no resources—no food, no water, nothing! How could you do this to us?” Moses and Aaron decide praying isn’t a bad idea. God says, “Take your staff”—the emblem of authority that became a serpent before Pharaoh—“gather the people and speak to the rock in front of them. It will gush with water.” They do as God commands, but when the big moment arrives, Moses screws up. He strikes the rock. As water pours out, God’s voice slices through celebration: “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” (Numbers 20.12) Being a just God, He can’t punish Israel for its leaders’ distrust. He'll give them the land He's promised. Yet the misstep costs Moses and Aaron their life’s dream. They’ll be left behind, buried in the desert. Which begs the question: Is God’s penalty too harsh for what seems like a reasonable mistake?

Back in the Picture

Surely Moses doesn’t imagine he’ll get water from the rock on his own if he hits it just right. He knows rocks don’t hold water. Let’s grant him that. And now let’s step back and look at what happened from God’s perspective. Moses gets in the way of God’s glory. It looks like water gushes out of the rock because he’s done something. The plan was intended as a hands-off display of divine power, not a divinely inspired maneuver. In doing too much, Moses cheats God’s pleasure in proving how much He can do.

How often do we strike when God wants us to speak? We’re in the middle of nowhere and up against a rock, with people asking, “Now what?” We go to God and He tells us, “This is what you should say.” Emboldened by His direction, we encourage everyone to watch what’s about to happen. Then, when the time comes, we wedge our way back in the picture, thinking if we don’t do something, nothing will happen. We act when we need only speak. Philippians 2.13 tells us, “It is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” Many, many times in life—particularly when we’re completely lost with no resources or power of our own—all we can do, all we’re supposed to do, is confess our faith and give God some space. He does the doing. He works in us to will and to act, as He’s pleased to do for His glory. That’s how rock talk works.

A Spoken Art

If Moses’s rock disaster teaches anything, it’s faith is a spoken, not performance, art. We might dismiss this as too literal a reading were it not for dozens of other texts backing it up. Listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 17.20: “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move.” We move mountains on command. Paul writes, “It is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (Romans 10.10) We’re saved by what we say. We read in Psalm 107.20, “He sent forth his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave.” Health and life are transmitted through the spoken word. That’s why Joel 3.10 encourages us, “Let the weakling say, ‘I am strong!’”

Looking at a rock wall without the tiniest inkling what to do next tells us time for doing is passed and time to speak has begun. We’ve come to this place to rediscover what our God can do if we discount power we possess, speak faith to our needs, and watch Him to perform. Banging away at problems won’t end well for us. God very well may do what He did with Moses and Aaron. He may show His miraculous power for the good of those around us. But even so, we displease Him when we veer from His plan and insert ourselves into His picture. In Exodus 20.5, He says, “I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God." He will give us everything we need when we need it—water from a rock if that’s what it takes. But He stubbornly refuses to share His glory with anyone. Rock talk is about speaking trust when we’re told and then allowing God to perform.

Finding ourselves before a rock wall with no idea what to do tells us it's time to speak faith, stand back, and let God do the doing.

(Tomorrow: Architecture)

Postscript: Bible Study Report

Last night's first online Bible Study was a great success. Though attendance was small, the blessings were enormous. If at all possible, I encourage you participate in tomorrow’s 11 AM CDT study. We have much to learn from one another, and much love to share. I promise your efforts will be greatly rewarded!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

When Push Comes to Shove

“Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

                        Luke 8.45

Too Many People, Too Little Time

Most every year, Walt and I try to be in Paris for the summer solstice, when the city hosts its magnificent fête de la musique, a dusk-to-dawn revel of dancing and music. It’s basically a do-it-yourself festival. If you can play an instrument, you find an open spot and go for it while the city reserves its famous landmarks for famous performers. One year Lenny Kravitz played at La place de la République and we wandered over for a look. Crowds (mostly American kids) jammed the square and streets around it. When he took the stage, the crowd surged with such force it lifted us off the ground, wringing us into a human riptide. “We gotta get out of here,” Walt shouted. “I’m not ready to die for Lenny Kravitz.” Somehow we broke free, vowing we’d never again put ourselves in similar danger.

All the same, I relive that experience every time I read about the hemorrhaging woman. She’s suffered for 12 years and spent her savings on doctors to no avail. She’s ashen, frail, and riddled with pain. News that Jesus is in town brings unexpected hope, driving her to muster what courage and strength she has left to get to Him. By the time she finds Him, according to Luke 8.42, the crowd is so dense it almost crushes Him. Most people in her condition would turn back in dismay, thinking there are too many people and too little time for Jesus to get to them. A lot of us would look at the hordes pressing Him and see a deathtrap. Not this lady. She’s come too far to turn back. Jesus is her only hope and she intends to reach Him—or die trying. She pushes her way through. Though she never gets close enough to be seen, she manages to reach out to Him. As the crowd surges and sways, she lunges forward and—for a glint of a second—grabs His cloak. Jesus instantly stops to ask, “Who touched me?”

Touching Jesus

Plainly, something serious just happened and nobody’s sure what Jesus means. Everyone in proximity denies jostling Him. Finally, Peter suggests, “Master, the whole crowd is brushing and pressing against You.” This is different, Jesus says. “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” (Luke 8.46) The woman’s touch changed Jesus. Their contact wasn’t flesh-to-flesh, but spirit-to-spirit. This is serious, really serious. Someone’s taken power from Jesus without His consent. Everybody backs off. The woman realizes Jesus is talking about her. She falls at His feet, trembling as she confesses what drove her to touch Him and reporting she was healed the instant her hand grazed His garment. Jesus says what He habitually tells everyone who’s healed in His presence. “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” (v48)

The King James Version translates Hebrews 4.15 thusly: “We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities,” implying our suffering does in fact touch Jesus, our High Priest. The Hebrews writer goes on to say, like us, He’s completely familiar with human vulnerability and weakness. He feels our pain. And the hemorrhaging woman’s miracle teaches us touching Jesus is how we feel His power.

Plunge, Then Lunge

We can’t look at the crowds and turn back, thinking there are too many people pressing Jesus and too little time to receive what we need. We plunge, then lunge. The crowd may not welcome us. They may even pull more tightly together, citing Old Testament edicts to keep us out. The hemorrhaging woman sure isn’t welcome to join the crowd. According to Leviticus 15.25-27, she’s a health risk: “When a woman has a discharge of blood for many days other than her monthly period… she will be unclean as long as she has the discharge… Whoever touches [anything she’s touched] will be unclean.” Yet she ignores the Law to plunge into the crowd and then audaciously lunges toward Christ, knowing if she touches Him, He too will be unclean. That’s why she hesitates to identify herself. Her background convinces her she’s unworthy, untouchable, guilty. It pushes her so far from the crowd she has no choice but shove her way through it.

Instead of drawing Christ’s scorn, her touch draws His power and immediate attention. Twelve years of hearing she’s incurably sick and beyond human help vanish the instant she reaches Jesus. Notice, Jesus never touches her—not because He’s worried about breaking the Law, but because she’s already touched Him. Her faith heals her. When push comes to shove, we can’t permit others to push us aside for fear we’ll pollute them. Our need for Christ is bigger than outmoded laws and uninformed paranoia. It’s time to shove. In Matthew 11.12, Jesus says, “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.” The kingdom is advancing. A Force is at work. We can’t wait for current crowds to figure out what’s happening and catch up. We need Jesus now and if we have to force our way into the crowd to reach Him, now’s the time to do it.

We can’t allow crowds to intimidate us. We need to touch Jesus now.

(Tomorrow: Rock Talk)

Note: Two online Bible studies are happening THIS WEEK—one of them TONIGHT at 8 PM CDT. Click on the link at the top of the right column to find out more.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Wrong Crowd, Right Reasons

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and ‘sinners.’” But wisdom is proved right by her actions.

                        Matthew 11.19

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Jesus?

You’ve got to wonder, had God sent Jesus into our world, how far could He go? Could His ministry even get off the ground? Without divine intervention, I’m not so sure. Our post-industrial culture puts far too much trust in mass production for an iconoclastic preacher like Jesus to run loose very long without getting reeled back in. Anyone aspiring to ministry today must comply certain protocols and standards. While I’m not questioning their validity or necessity, I mention them because their main purpose is “quality control”—cranking out ministers to meet fixed standards and qualifications. 

Let’s review how Jesus begins His ministry. He gets baptized, spends 40 days in the wilderness, and—bam!—He’s preaching and healing, calling disciples and challenging temple elders, and revolutionizing religious thought. Just imagining such a thing now would make some queasy and others laugh. Although ancient Palestine’s climate isn’t nearly as cool as ours toward self-styled prophets, it still doesn't take long for Jesus to get on a lot of people’s nerves. Not only does His radical take on Scripture rattle their cages. His social habits don't comply with their standards of rabbinical behavior. They scrutinize His every move and go off when they catch Him where they think He shouldn’t be, with people they think He shouldn’t be around, and doing things they think He shouldn’t do. Yet their outrage hardly fazes Him. “Say what you will,” He essentially tells His critics in Matthew 11.19. “The wisdom in what I do will prove itself in the end.” Yes, Jesus is problem for many people, a problem that adamantly refuses to be solved.  

Nothing to Explain

Jesus’s doesn’t downplay His whereabouts and associations to prove His defiance or superiority. As He sees it, there’s nothing to explain. Even on the odd occasion when He does humor his critics, they don’t get it. In Luke 5.31-32, He replies to questions about Him dining with the wrong crowd this way: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Later on, when He calls Zaccheus down from the tree and invites Himself to the taxman’s house, the nay-sayers are at it again, grumbling, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’” (Luke 19.7) Staying clear of the wrong crowd to please the “right crowd” (if such a thing exists) won’t help those who need Him most. What’s not to understand about that?

Jesus has nothing to explain because He befriends the wrong crowd for the right reasons. He gives them His time, attention, and respect—at the risk of losing the respect of others—because no one else will. Truth be told, though, He doesn’t make things easy for Himself. He doesn’t limit Himself to an almost-right crowd—middle-of-the-road people who behave most of the time. Jesus jumps headlong into the worst of the worst, tax collectors and “sinners.” Jews revile tax collectors as traitors who profit by working for Romans, turning a blind eye to their tax-poor countrymen. “Sinners”—braced in quotes to denote a different word than the one for run-of-the-mill transgressors—are so repugnant to the mainstream they’re shunned by society and banned from worship. This is Jesus’s crowd, traitors and pariahs. He’s not ashamed to be seen with them, in their homes, eating their food, and drinking their wine. It’s exactly where He needs to be.

Coming Out to Go Back In

“A house is known by the company it keeps,” we’re told to warn us about “guilt by association.” This concept doesn’t match anything Jesus says or does, though many try to justify it with scriptural admonitions to pursue godly lives set apart from those pursuing their own pleasure. A favorite is 2 Corinthians 6.17: “Come out from them and be separate, say the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” Most assuredly, God’s presence should bring a noticeable change in our lives. But misconstruing being separate to mean separation misses the point. It shifts the emphasis from being to not doing. Worse yet, thinking separation will save our reputations (or souls) ignores the internal contradiction screaming down the middle of such logic. Self-imposed isolation from the wrong crowd for our benefit and safety puts us in the wrong crowd. How can we obey Christ’s law to love our neighbors as ourselves if we place our interests above theirs?

The purpose for coming out and being separate is going back in and becoming useful. Resisting bad influences and avoiding badly influenced people are not the same. Confusing them results in a fear-based strategy. If we’ve truly left the wrong crowd’s ways, there’s no reason to fear going back in to help others come out. On the other hand, if we return to dabble in their harmful attitudes and actions, we should be afraid—very afraid. We’re not opening our hearts to them; we’re opening our minds to their influences. We’re with the wrong crowd for the wrong reasons and we’ve got some explaining to do. When we’re with the wrong crowd for the right reasons, however, there’s nothing to explain.

Hanging with the wrong crowd for the right reasons is never wrong.

(Tomorrow: When Push Comes to Shove)

Note: Two online Bible studies are happening THIS WEEK. Click on the link at the top of the right column to find out more.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Going Through

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

                        Isaiah 43.2

Going All the Way

The tradition I grew up in included a regular feature called “testimony service.” Usually at Sunday evening or midweek worship, the minister asked a lay-member to officiate an informal period for other worshipers to report answered prayers, personal growth, and so on. Like all standard practices, a conventional structure and codified lingo developed over time, and seasoned testifiers used them liberally. For instance, most began with “I thank God for being saved, sanctified, and filled with the Holy Ghost” or, “Giving honor to God, the Head of my life, to the pastor, and all my brothers and sisters in Christ.”  From there, they segued into struggles they overcame or lessons they learned. (The AA meeting format draws on these conventions, by the way.) Finally, each testimony typically ended with requests for support—“I ask each of you to keep me in your prayers,” etc.—or a declaration: “It’s my desire to make Heaven my home,” “I’m going all the way with Jesus,” and other similar phrases.

Going all the way was a powerful pledge in that it perfectly balanced going through, a catch-all we often used to indicate our problems were too personal to share, too complicated to condense, or too debilitating to discuss. “I’ve really been going through something lately” told everyone more than enough to know whatever followed the admission was significant. But “going through” also had a second usage that reversed its other meaning. Spoken in the present tense by itself (“I’m going through”), it became a statement of determination—a defiant refusal to be defeated by circumstances and opposition. Sure, we had other euphemisms with comparable rings: “My heart is fixed and my mind is made up,” for example, or “I won’t let go of God’s unchanging hand.” Going through carried uncommon resonance, because to get where we were going—going all the way—meant going through trials and hardships and doubts. That’s why we talked about going through so much. We even sang about it. One of our hymns explicitly ended with “I started with Jesus and I’m going through.”

Getting Through

We have every confidence we can go through whatever befalls us because getting through isn’t left to us. God’s Word promises again and again He will see us through our difficulties. We believe that. First, we join David’s unyielding belief God stays with us through thick and thin. To paraphrase Psalm 23.4, we place complete assurance that even in the face of death we have nothing to fear because God is with us. Second, we trust Him to thwart any efforts against us. In Isaiah 54.17, He guarantees, “No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.” This doesn’t mean we glide merrily along without injury, shielded by supernatural Kevlar. The promise says nothing aimed at us can succeed in the end. Listen to Paul in 2 Corinthians 4.8-9: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” Finally, we know we’ll outlast any trial to rise, phoenix-like, from any setback; we have it on Scriptural authority that ultimate victory is ours. According to Romans 8.37, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Emphasis added.) The love of God conquers all. It gets us through.

Floods and Fires

It should be noted that promises to get us through difficulties implicitly predict we’ll face tough times and endure strenuous tests. In Isaiah 43.2, God describes our trials as floods and fires. We will experience frightening periods of feeling overwhelmed, when it seems like an unseen earthquake launches a tsunami toward us with unstoppable force. People and things we rely on—partners, friends, jobs, institutions, etc.—not only fail us. They rise against us, threatening to wipe out everything we hold dear. Whether or not we see the waves coming, Isaiah says we can expect floods. It also tells us to anticipate fiery times when flames encompass us and we fear we’ll never escape with our lives and possessions intact. Before we panic, however, we should do as the verse suggests: go through—pass through the flood, walk through the fire.

God promises to be with us. He says troubles that deluge us won’t sweep us away. How does this happen? Isaiah 59.19 reveals one way that God saves us from being completely overwhelmed. “When the enemy comes in like a flood,” it says, “the Spirit of the LORD will put him to flight.” Our adversaries can only do so much before God’s Spirit raises barriers to force them back. When fire breaks out, we summon faith and courage to walk forward, trusting His protective power for our safety. Thinking we should be exempt from floods and fires is misguided. Thinking God’s task is flood and fire prevention, rather than protection, misses the point. Times of flood and fire are when we look for Him, when He reveals Himself, when we discover the reality of His power and supremacy of His love. We need floods and fires. With nothing to go through, we’ll never experience how God gets us through. And getting through gives us a testimony worth telling.

We go through floods and fires so we can testify to God’s power to get us through.

(Tomorrow: Wrong Crowd, Right Reasons)

Postscript: Online Bible Study Guide

Two online Bible studies are scheduled this week, one on Thursday evening (6/11) and another on Saturday morning (6/13). Information about times and how to join is available here. Meanwhile, as promised, here a link to the preliminary study guide for those who want to read ahead:

Why Pray When You Can Worry?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Light of Day

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

                        Genesis 1.3

Act I

Our drama begins in pitch black. We peer through the darkness for the tiniest glimmer of light—a distant glow, a tiny pinpoint—finding none. Absence of sight tunes our ears to hushed undulations of a vast body of water. We think we’re at sea on a starless, moonless night. Tension builds for what’s to come. The delay lasts an eternity. As our hearing sharpens, we’re convinced it’s not the sea. No waves swell and recede, tides wax and wane, or currents break and swirl. The water is still, silent, with no life of its own and none below. The sound we hear is a gentle whisper brushing the water’s surface. Though we can place its position and follow its sweep, it mysteriously sounds as if it’s everywhere at once.

Our curiosity turns from the water to what hovers above it. Hearing becomes secondary now. We’re gripped by the sense of presence—a Presence, an Emanation of unparalleled gravity and substance that also contradicts gravity and matter by occupying all time and space. Mere intuition of this Presence heightens our awareness It is Life Itself. We’re lost in It but neither confused nor afraid. We belong to this Presence. We come from It. Once we understand this, the movement stops. Silence hangs in the darkness, anticipating the Presence’s opening line. It pierces the stillness with authoritative, infinite power: “Let there be light.” Brilliance shines forth, chasing the darkness below the far horizon to illuminate what, as of this moment, remains an endless aquatic expanse. The Presence calls the passing darkness “Night” and the rising light “Day.” With daylight, we look for the Presence only to find It nowhere in sight yet inarguably visible anywhere we look and revealed in everything we see.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.

                        John 1.1,4

Act II

Day follows night and night follows day in an endless, predictable cycle. The first six of them burst with creativity as the Giver of Light transforms the aqueous cosmos into a universe, lavishing one planet with an extraordinary array of life forms that includes a human uniquely designed to reflect His presence and serve His purpose. Everything He creates is perfect and remains perfect until the human’s arrogant attempt to be like God introduces a new kind of darkness to the story. It lingers day and night, causing humanity to stumble blindly from crisis to crisis, trying to hide from God and hoping to find Him at the same time.

Out of bottomless compassion, God repeatedly issues laws we must obey to dispel the night we created. But each new edict compounds human error and the darkness thickens, compelling God to devise a better solution. He visibly enters our drama as a man named Jesus, fulfilling an 800-year-old pledge He made through His prophet: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9.2) He honors His word by becoming The Word, which John describes as Life and Light Incarnate. Jesus shatters death’s power and our darkness, closing this second act on a triumphant note—and opening the question of whether we will see the light of day and choose eternal life. The choice may seem obvious, but Jesus says it’s not: “Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3.19) New life and light require new attitudes and habits. After playing supporting roles in the first two acts, the third places us center stage.

For you were once darkness, but you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.

                        Ephesians 5.8


The curtain rises on crowds of people searching for shadowy corners to act on base impulses and pursue dark pleasures. The brightness and reach of Christ’s light depends on how well we perform. When we shine, He shines. And when He shines, those intent on harming others and themselves suddenly see what they’re doing. They hear the Voice that first called for light speaking directly to them. We need not be told this; we’ve experienced it first-hand. We were once darkness. Now we are light in the Lord. It’s our privilege and responsibility to live as children of light. 1 Peter 2.9 describes us like this: “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belong to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” Choosing to see the light and answering God’s call away from darkness ends in being chosen and called to bring light to others. Our drama isn’t over. God alone will decide when it ends. But whether the final curtain falls tomorrow or ten thousand years from now, we play decisive roles in how it ends. Wherever we go and whatever we do, we conduct ourselves as children of light, emulating our Father and echoing The Word. Let there be light!

As children of light, we call for light that chases darkness from sight.

(Tomorrow: Going Through)

Note: Two online Bible studies are happening THIS WEEK. Click on the link at the top of the right column to find out more.