Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Tending the Lamp

Afghanistan, the Pandemic, and that terrible storm Ida have occupied our thoughts and prayers, and because of them I brought a heavy heart to my daily Bible reading.

I sank a little further when I saw what it was for the day—several chapters in Leviticus. Excuse my sarcasm, but there’s nothing like reading about defiling skin diseases or bodily discharges to lift one’s spirits. But on the other hand, it sure reminds us of all that Jesus has done for us. Across the top of several pages in Leviticus, I’ve written in large print, “Thank you for Jesus,” because his sacrifice saved us from ritual sacrifices and a life of rules and regulations. 

God knows what we need, and He knew this would be my reading on this day, so more than ever I searched for what He might want to speak through his Word. 

I found it in Leviticus 24:4. In the Lord’s instructions to Moses about the tent of meeting, one of them was, “The lamps on the pure gold lampstand before the Lord must be tended continually.”

In a day of so much happening in the world in addition to our own personal heartaches, it’s important to keep our lamps burning—to allow God by the power of His spirit to as in the words of the old gospel song, “Keep us burning to till the break of day.” We don’t want to be like the virgins awaiting the bridegroom in Matthew 25 who ran out of oil before the bridegroom’s arrival.

And yes, I realize I wrote about light last week. Let's call this part two.

When heartaches roll in, it’s easy to let go of tending our lamps though Bible study, worship, prayer, and meeting together. But these things are essential to keeping our radiance for Christ. I’m struck by the word “continually” in the Leviticus passage. This is not an on and off again situation, it calls for being intentional.

One of the commentaries I read on this verse noted that this lamp was the only light in the tent by which the priests could carry out their tasks. The light of Jesus is the only light that can change this ragged planet. He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). We need to keep our lamps burning because we may find ourselves in situations where we are the only ones who gleam with the light of Christ in a dark place. Jesus also said in Matthew 5:16, “. . . let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

So, let’s tend our lamps and keep them blazing. Even when the news seems mostly bad, even when our hearts break for those in difficult circumstances, and even when there doesn’t seem to be many answers. There is still Jesus. He is and will always be the light of the world.

Books here.   

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

When It's Hard to see the Light

I stepped back from a painting I’d been working on for hours. Something wasn’t right with the light. A professor of mine used to say the best way to see the light was to squint. So, I tried that, and what I still needed to do became clearer.

I’ve been trying that same squinting technique with the events happening on the other side of this spinning orb in Afghanistan. But try as I might, the light has been hard to see. The heartbreaking images sear into our minds and the darkness threatens to overwhelm.

The temptation is to avoid the news regarding this situation, but that feels an awful lot like those in the Good Samaritan story who went to the other side of the road to avoid helping the man who had been robbed and beaten.

There’s a lot to process, and emotions can run the gamut, but I’ve been joining with others around the world, as many of you have, to corporately ask God for miraculous intervention, because it seems that’s what it’s going to take to resolve this crisis.

Brother Andrew who has spent his life getting the word of God to people in desperate situations used to pray when smuggling Bibles behind the Iron Curtain, “Lord, you made blind eyes see. Now make seeing eyes blind.” And God did time after time as Bibles made it through check points. I’ve been praying for those who are trying to find their way out, that the eyes of the oppressors would be blind to their movements.

We’ve also been interceding for the service men and women who have once more been deployed to this region to help Americans and refugees escape. Even now, they are in harm’s way to help others. May they be kept safe in their endeavors.

I remind myself of this verse from John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  No matter how bleak any situation may seem, there is a light that cannot be extinguished. I am trusting the light of Jesus is going forth even in these desolate circumstances.

Let’s continue to pray for miracles and hold on to hope. Let’s pray for those in authority to have supernatural wisdom to discern the best plan of action at this point.

If you feel led to give, I am providing a link to Samaritan's Purse who is doing good work by partnering with others on the ground to provide escape for many. They were able to bring out around 700 in one day. HERE for Samaritan's Purse. (I receive no remuneration for providing this link).

There's much to be done, but my heart’s desire is that day by day more light would break forth and soon no squinting will be required.

 A story set on the lovely Saint Simons Island HERE.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

What There's No Way Around

I’m sitting here staring out the door of the she-shed into the garden and trying to figure out how to express my thoughts. Butterflies are floating around out there in record numbers this year, I guess because I’ve added one more butterfly bush and my lantana is especially loaded with blooms. It’s an idyllic scene and contrasts sharply with the burden in my heart.


It seems there are so many folks trying to rewrite the gospel. Now, I don’t think they would admit that. It’s an insidious thing.

It reminds me of someone I knew long ago who often referenced the love of God. “God is love,” he quoted from 1 John 4:8. Well, yes, yes, and yes. But I felt he focused on this aspect of God to cover over the wide range of his behaviors that were inconsistent with other attributes of God—among them justice, righteousness, and holiness.

When I fully surrendered to the Lord, I memorized a little booklet Campus Crusade for Christ (called CRU) publishes, The Four Spiritual Laws. These were put together from scripture by that great saint of God, Bill Bright.

Still today, I don’t know of any better way to tell the story of what God has done on our behalf. In summary, God loves us and has a plan for our lives, but we are separated from God by sin. Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for that sin and the way to experience his love and plan. We must accept him into our lives as Lord and Savior to know God’s plan and have eternal life. (I’ll give a direct link to the exact wording from Cru below. I receive no monetary remuneration for doing so).

The point is, yes, God is love, but we are separated from Him by our sin. If we weren’t, there would have been no reason for Jesus to come. It rips the heart out of the gospel if we remove the acknowledgement of ourselves as sinners needing to repent.

If we talk about the love of God without acknowledging our need for a Savior, what are we doing? What kind of gospel is that?

I turn to C. S. Lewis from Mere Christianity, “Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement; he is a rebel who must lay down his arms. Laying down your arms, surrendering, saying you are sorry, realizing that you have been on the wrong track and getting ready to start life over again from the ground floor--that is the only way out of a ‘hole.’ This process of surrender--this movement full speed astern--is what Christians call repentance.”

We can talk about the love of God and try to gloss over our sin, but God’s love is fully embodied in Jesus, who died for us. Our sin caused his death. There is no way around it. 

I see people following a gospel which is no gospel at all. It has the appearance of all love and acceptance but skips this very essential step of repentance of sin.

I recently bought a shopping bag that had written on it, “Oh, happy day.” I don’t think its creators had any idea where those words came from. But some of us know it’s from an old hymn, “Oh, happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away.”

And let me testify right here, it was indeed a happy day, when I repented, and Jesus washed mine away and gave me a new life. 

May we all find our happy day. 

Four Spiritual Laws 

A story set on the lovely Saint Simons Island HERE.



 

 

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

If you're in high weeds

In the last few days, Jerry and I watched a docuseries about the country music singer, Luke Bryan, entitled “Dirt Road Diaries.” I don’t normally listen to country radio, but my son and a good friend do and for that reason I try to keep up a bit. And I’m always ready for a biography.

As many know, the Byran family has suffered almost unimaginable loss. A young brother, a sister, and a brother-in-law all within a short few years. As the story unfolds, you see how they struggled to find their bearings after each death, but because his siblings had been so encouraging in his career, Luke felt they would have wanted him to keep going.

In the end, he says when talking of the losses, and I’m paraphrasing here, that without faith, their family would have been "lost."

We’ve often said around here that anyone who tries to navigate devastating heartache without the Lord would be lost. Jerry has used the South Georgia phrase, “lost as a ball in high weeds.”

That phrase reminds me of an animal story that I told here about ten years ago. I’ll recap. A feral mama kitty took up here. She had kittens out in the studio and one morning I discovered one missing—the black and white tuxedo, Wilbur. The other kittens were grey. This litter probably had two different fathers and I wondered if one of them came back to destroy the kitten that wasn’t theirs which often happens.

Anyway, we searched and searched and nothing. Then I had the idea to let Lucy out. The big brown Aussiedor had shown amazing tenderness toward the kittens. “Find Wilbur, “I told her. So, she set out nose to the ground sniffing every blade of grass in the back yard to no avail. Then I let her outside the fence into the front yard. After some time, she zeroed in on a patch of ivy, nosed it, and then just stood there looking at me. I went over and pulled back the leaves, and there was the tiny Wilbur only a week or so old under the leaves, still alive. I took him back to his Mama and then moved the whole lot of them indoors which they adjusted to in a surprisingly quick way.

Wilbur was lost and against all odds, Lucy found him. We conjecture the father must have been spooked in his efforts to destroy the kitten. For ten years, these animals have had an astounding connection. Wherever Lucy is, Wilbur will not be far away as you can see in this recent picture. It’s like he knows she saved him.

If you’re reading this, know you are not lost to God, and He can find you in any high weeds or under any ivy leaves.  Thomas Merton wrote, "I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for You are ever with me. And You will never leave me to face my perils alone." A few of Andrew Murray's words on the subject were, "There is no one so far lost that Jesus cannot find him and cannot save him." He comes to us to both save us for eternity and to help us through the heartaches of this life. You don’t have to go it alone. Call out to Him. 

In a recent devotional I read in The Upper Room Magazine, a writer testified how when he was a child, a grandparent taught him to pray what he called a “big little prayer” which was “Help me, Lord.” Three simple words, which have been so powerful in his life. Pray that.

Luke said he wanted this docuseries to go forward because he believed it would help others who have suffered loss.

I think it will, for anyone who is willing to call on the Lord.

“Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done . . . Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always” (Psalm 105: 1, 4).

A story set on the lovely Saint Simons Island HERE.

 

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

If you're looking for living hope



The song has rolled around in my head for weeks now and brought me much comfort. It takes its title, “Living Hope,” from this verse, “In his great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Christ from the dead . . . “(I Peter 1:3).

Hope must be living to be hope.

But we all know you can be living, and not have hope.

And that may be where many find themselves today. Especially as we face rising cases, which are now affecting younger people, financial troubles, family problems, grief, and any number of other challenges. Many are suffering from what the French might call “ennui”— a general dissatisfaction with life.

But if we look closely at the verse, we see hope comes through the resurrection of Jesus. Eugene Peterson put it this way in the Message, “Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now!

The future starts now. We don’t have to wait for some far-off time for hope. I’ve written several times about beloved writer Elizabeth Sherrill here, and I want to go back and pull a few words forward from one of those posts. About a book she wrote entitled “All the Way to Heaven,” she writes it is “‘the story of how heaven, which I used to think of as an imaginary realm-in-the-sky, has become more real to me than the ground beneath my feet. Real in the past, real for the future, and best of all, real right now.’

Real right now―even in the middle of pain and feeling the earth is shaking beneath our feet.

In her book, Elizabeth quotes Henri Nouwen, who ministered to those suffering intellectual and developmental disabilities, ‘The cup of sorrow, inconceivable as it seems, is also the cup of joy. In the midst of the sorrows is consolation, in the midst of the darkness is light, in the midst of the despair is hope.’

Even our bleakest moments are not entirely without light. The glories of heaven pierce the shroud around us and reveal the goodness of God.

Some of you are going through those bleak times.  We look at the year stretching ahead and wonder how we’ll make it. But friends, no matter what happens, God is good. Heaven is not just pie-in-the-sky but is meeting us here in all of our hurting places.”

God offers his consolation, light and hope to us and that hope is for sure a living hope.

Listen to “Living Hope” here.

A story set on the lovely Saint Simons Island HERE.

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