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Showing posts from December, 2011

A great organizational tool

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We had a quiet Christmas which suited us fine this year.  We've been so busy that it's been good to just rest and regroup!  I've loved having a few days to process the events of the year, get my calendar in order, and begin on my planning and goal-setting. I just love the whole notion of cleaning out, cleaning up, reorganizing, and prayerfully considering what God is speaking to me for the new year.

One of the biggest helps I've had the past few months is a free software program called ActionOutline Lite (the "lite" is the free version; you have to pay for the premium). You can plan anything in outline form and flesh it out in a second pane that works like a word processor.  It's fantastic!  I finally have a place to pop every little piece of information--in an orderly place.  The screen looks like this:


Each tab you create is a separate outline that organizes everything you want on that subject.  I have my daily to-do list, goals & planning, blogging…

Jesus, Our Light - Day 12

The call to "walk in the light as He is in the light" (I John 1:7) is the invitation God has spoken to mankind since the beginning when He said "Let there be light" (Genesis 1:3).  It was never His plan to leave us in the devastation and darkness that sin caused--praise His Name!

He is building a kingdom of light-transformed people who love Him and will spend eternity with Him, enjoying Him and everything they were created for.  That little baby in Bethlehem was the Father's promise of perfect and restored life for us.

And the best is yet to come!  Listen to what Isaiah prophesied centuries before Christ came:

"The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you; But the Lord will be to you an everlasting light, and your God your glory." (Isaiah 60:19)
He was not only referring to Jesus being the Light of redemption, but also the Light of heaven.  Just as we see God commanding light to shine at the beginning of …

Jesus, Our Light - Day 11

One of the hardest things for our human nature is to let the Light shine in our darkness.  Those deep inner places we don't want God to mess with.  Weakness, fear, bondage, things we loathe and things we like and don't want to give up.  Yet to enjoy all the promised goodness and freedom of God's love, we have let it be on His terms.

"For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth)... And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them... But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: 'Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.'" (Ephesians 5:8-14)
 The great gift of the Incarnation is that in accepting Christ's light, we are changed!  Daily set free from the damaging works of darkess.  There's nothing in the…

Jesus, Our Light - Day 10

Paul the apostle had a startling encounter one day with the Light.  In prison for preaching the gospel, he recounts the amazing story to the king, hoping to persuade him to see his need for Jesus.

On his way to arrest Jewish Christians in Damascus for heresy, Paul reports, "At midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me" (Acts 26:13).  He falls to the ground, blinded, and hears Jesus Himself speaking to him, charging him with the mission to preach salvation to the Gentiles:

"...to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and  an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me." (Acts 26:18)
Here's that wonderful symbolism again--Paul, who thought he knew the light (righteous in his own self-righteousness)--is plunged into blinding darkness that he might have his spiritual eyes opened to the Truth.  He rece…

Jesus, Our Light - Day 9

Interestingly, my study today 'happened' to coincide with the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah, which is also called the Festival of Lights. This story is from the extra-Biblical Book of Maccabees in the Apocrypha.  Though an entirely Jewish holiday, we see some wonderful symbolism in it that speaks of Jesus, our Light.
In the years before 165 B.C., the Jewish nation had been under the rule of the Greeks.  A pagan king named Antiochus Ephiphanes had defiled the Temple and forced the Jews to abandon their faith.  But a brave group of young men under the leadership of Judah Maccabee revolted and successfully overthrew the pagan rule. Judah headed up the work of cleansing the Temple and rededicating it in 165 B.C.
But when they restored the temple service, they found they only had enough holy oil to burn for one day, the rest of it having been defiled by the Greek invaders. This oil was a symbol of the eternal Presence of God, the Light of the World, and had been commanded by Him to …

Jesus, Our Light - Day 8

We have seen what the prophets said about the Light that was to come, and we've seen what Jesus' followers had to say.  Later, Jesus Himself boldly declared that He was the Light.  He not only revealed what darkness looked like in the human heart, but showed the power of His Light to transform it.

In the familiar story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8), we see Jesus' forgiveness and mercy to a sinner.  This was played out against the iron-clad, law-enforcing Pharisees who would stone her on the spot.  But after Jesus granted her forgiveness, He turned and spoke to the Pharisees:

"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)
An interesting wrap-up to that drama. Implication? Their merciless self-righteousness actually came from darkness.  Jesus was showing the heart of the Father--His deep desire to bring His loved ones back to Life.  Mercy, grace, second chances. The path back is Jesus.

He s…

Jesus, Our Light - Day 7

It's the start of a new week and the second half of my 'take' on the twelve days of Christmas...hope these reflections bless you as much as they have blessed me! The study in the Word has been wonderful.

The apostle John seems eager to communicate to his readers in his New Testament writings this whole idea of Jesus=Light=Life.  In his gospel, he starts right out in chapter 1:

"In Him was life, and the life was the light of men, and the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it... This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe." (John 1:4-5, 7)
Again, in his first letter, he starts right out:
"This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all." (I John 1:5)
"Darkness" here in the Greek is the word scotia, which means gloom, evil, sin, night, moral depravity.  It also has the implication of everything that came t…

Jesus, Our Light - Day 6

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It's interesting to see how God used light to reveal Jesus when He was born--by a star.

The wise men who came from somewhere in the east had an understanding that this unusual Star meant that the King of the Jews had been born (Matthew 2:1-11).  In obedience to that revelation (prepared hearts!), they kept at their quest to find this baby King until that same star actually led them to the very spot. I love how God uses the symbolism of darkness and light here--stars don't shine during the day.  It was in the darkness that the wise men found Jesus.

Centuries before, a prophet named Balaam had actually called the coming Messiah a Star:

"I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out Israel... Out of Jacob One shall have dominion." (Numbers 24:17, 19)
And the apostle Peter, writing years after Jesus' resurrection, uses the same symbolism to call us to the Light of Christ:
"And so we have the prophetic word …

Jesus, Our Light - Day 5

Within days of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem, his parents Joseph and Mary obeyed what all Jewish parents of firstborn sons were to do:  present him to the Lord in dedication at the Temple a few weeks after his circumcision.

Meanwhile, God was watching the heart of a certain elderly man in Jerusalem--nobody special--whom the Bible says was "just and devout."  This man Simeon was not only a passionate seeker of God, but he was waiting for the "Consolation of Israel," a beautiful phrase describing the Messiah.

Now I find it surprising that the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders were not on high alert at this time.  It is not hard to calculate by the prophecy of the coming Messiah in Daniel 9:25-26 that the Messiah was going to appear any minute. (That's a great Bible study right there.)

So I wonder if maybe Simeon had figured this out, had maybe been asking God about it, pouring out the longing of his heart to see God's promise come to pass.  Luke 2:26 tells u…

Jesus, Our Light - Day 4

Picture this scenario:  a few hundred years have gone by since Isaiah's prophesies about the coming Messiah, and Israel is still waiting.  One day in the Temple in Jerusalem, one of the priests, Zacharias, is chosen by lot to burn incense before the Lord on the golden Altar of Incense, which stood at the doorway to the Holy of Holies.

While busy about his work, suddenly the angel Gabriel appears to him with an astonishing message from God.  (There were a lot of angels in the Christmas story.)  God was going to give Zacharias and his aged wife a son in answer to a long-time prayer, a boy they were to call John (which means "the Lord has shown favor").  John would be a prophet whose job would be to help prepare the hearts of God's people for the soon-to-appear Messiah.

Prepare their hearts?  Why?  Hundreds of years with no prophetic messages from God and a history of national subjugation to foreign powers had dulled their zeal for their God.  Sin, darkness, and unbeli…

Jesus, Our Light - Day 3

And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth,  and deep darkness the people; But the LORD will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” Isaiah 60:1-3
Here it is again, that sharp contrast between darkness and light.  Doesn't it perfectly describe what we see everywhere?  Darkness, 'deep darkness,' blinding and crippling and imprisoning people everywhere.  Hopeless, helpless, and desperate—that's what darkness produces.  How that must have grieved the heart of the Father to see those created in His image and intended for kingdom-sharing to be so destroyed.
But He had a plan!  Jesus, because He saw our need and subjected Himself to our 'deep darkness,' can now share His glory with us, on us, over us!  Restore to us the privilege of Kingdom living; a glory and light so real as to be seen by others.  The 'increase of His kingdom…

Jesus, Our Light - Day 2

“... By way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, in Galilee of the Gentiles.  The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined … For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder, and His name will be called  Wonderful,  Counselor,  Mighty God,  Everlasting Father,  Prince of Peace.   Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end...”  Isaiah 9:2, 6-7
This glorious prophecy is one of the very moving passages in Handel's Messiah we hear at Christmas, which clearly declares the person and work of Jesus, our Light.  He is promised as the world's Messiah and Savior, Son of God and Son of Man, God Himself as part of the Trinity, the reigning King for all eternity, and bringer of Peace and perfect leadership for “us”--the ones He came for.  This is is what we celebrate!
In these troubled times, I often find myself praying the words of this pa…

Jesus, Our Light - Day 1

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One of my most favorite things about Christmastime is the lights--twinkling on the tree, sparkling on homes and streets and buildings.  The world doesn't even know the vast significance of it, that Jesus came to be our Light, to shine on our darkness.  Without the Light we are blind and the darkness rules.

So I offer you my version of the "The Twelve Days of Christmas"--a devotional thought each day from the Word, a thankful look at the beautiful gift the Father of Lights has given us.
"Behold!  My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights!  I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles...I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house..."  Isaiah 42:1, 6-7From the time God gave Abraham the covenant …

New week, new month, new snow

It looks like we're working on a white Christmas in our neck of the woods—we've had three snows in the last week and it's been too cold to do much melt-off. It's beautiful! I think our clan is secretly hoping that it'll continue for a few weeks, at least in a reasonable manner, to set the stage for the holidays. I always forget all the fol-de-rol that comes with winter, the cumulative hours of time to dress in layers, don boots, hat, gloves, scarves, then repeat the process in reverse; shoveling, shoveling, and more shoveling. But there's little that can compare to a cozy home, crackling fireplace, hot tea, cuddly afghans, hot soup and muffins, and the gallery-hung-pictures out every window. Might as well as enjoy it!
We had the perfect Christmas-tree-getting this last week. In the interest of simplicity, we have for years opted for an artificial tree since SweetPea was little. But this year we were invited to the mountain home of some homeschooling frien…