Father of Lights

16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures. (James 1:16-18)

Perspective and process is what we discussed in verses 12-15.  God’s perspective is heavenly and we can have confidence in what He is doing and has promised to do.  Jesus says in John 15 to “Abide in Me” and to faithfully serve Him despite the highs and lows of our life and the result is eternal life…the crown of life.  That is the process.

In that, the devil will try to mix all that up, sow lies, cause confusion.  But we read here to not be deceived.  To remember that all good gifts and things that come into our lives are from Heaven.  If something is not good, we know it is not from God and we can work to avoid it, flee from it or otherwise escape and resist.

Specifically, God is the God of light and there is no darkness in Him.  Again, a standard we can measure the things in our life by.  God is the God of light and there is no variation or shadow.  God is solid in that He does not move and that He is not empty but is and represents His supreme and awesome power and nature which is fully focused on our restoration and salvation.  He works to build up.  The devil works to tear down.  We can know that God has and is working to restore us…bringing us into the light as He is light.  Our objective is to stay there and remain faithful and we will prevail.

Let me close with a passage from Paul’s letter to Timothy and encourage all of us to move to the light and stay in the light no matter how hard the devil works to yank us back.

11 But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, 14 that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing, 15 which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords16 who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen. (1 Timothy 6:11-16)

Daniel – The Way of Exile

Today’s post is a link to a video by the Bible Project on the Way of Exile. In this video is a fantastic point about the decision Daniel and his 3 friends made while living in a Babylonian culture. We today are still living in a Babylonian culture.

The Bible Project – The Way of the Exile


“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
(Matthew 5:13-16)

Daniel – No ground for complaint

Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.”
(Daniel 6:3-5)

Isn’t this just like today? Somebody gets a promotion and everybody else wants to knock the guy off the ladder! The king of Babylon wanted to set Daniel over the whole kingdom…it doesn’t seem like there could be a higher position except for the king himself. Daniel was increasing in favor with the king, and the other officials were envious, to the point that they wanted to destroy him. You know if they put half as much effort into their jobs as they did trying to destroy Daniel, they might have been promoted, too!

In their attempt to bring Daniel down, they looked into everything to see where they could find a fault with him. He has to be doing wrong somewhere, and we are going to find it. But what happened? They couldn’t find anything!

The Bible tells us that Daniel had “an excellent spirit.” It also says in this passage that he was “faithful, and that no error or fault was found in him.” This does not mean that Daniel never sinned, but we can see that the life of Daniel properly defines the word “blameless.”

Men, we are living in a culture much like that of Daniel’s day, and those around us are always watching us. This is nothing new. When good people are seeking to follow God, and they are moving up in the world, you can count on others seeking to find some dirt on you.

They open wide their mouths against me; they say, “Aha, Aha! Our eyes have seen it!”
(Psalm 35:21)

For I said, “Only let them not rejoice over me, who boast against me when my foot slips!”
(Psalm 38:16)

Have you ever been in a situation at work, where maybe the wrong word slipped out of your mouth or you displayed a poor attitude? Sometimes those in the world will pounce on that momentary weakness to show how you are just as bad as everyone else, or that you are a hypocrite. Not everyone is that way, thankfully. Even heathens can show grace at times! But again, you will experience many times where the people around you are just waiting for you to mess up so they can say, “Aha, got you!” Daniel lived in that world, just like we do.

That is what makes it all the more important that we seek to live a blameless life, a life above reproach. We know how others are going to respond, so we should be even more careful to watch what we say and do in the midst of non-believers.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
(Philippians 2:14-16)

Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
(1 Peter 2:12)

Shine Your Light

After giving the Beatitudes which describe who the people are who are blessed and belong in Christ’s kingdom, Jesus continues to describe who his people are. There is an identity that Christ’s people understand that they possess. First, Jesus said that we are the salt of the earth. It is not that we have salt but that we are salt. We are to influence people for Jesus. We asked who do we influence, where do we influence, and how do we influence. Jesus’ concern was that we would lose our saltiness. We are to influence in a way that brings grace to the person and to the situation. We must consider our words and actions to determine if we are bringing graciousness that glorifies Jesus. Jesus gives us another picture of our identity in Matthew 5:14-16.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14–16 ESV)

You Are the Light of the World. What does that mean? Are we talking influence? And if so…Who do we influence…Where do we influence…How do we influence?

Jesus answers these questions in the two illustrations given…a city on a hill that cannot be hidden and a lamp put upon a stand (not under a basket). In both, Jesus is talking about light and that it cannot and more importantly should not be hidden.

As disciples and men, we must not be hidden and should be obvious like a city set on a hill. God did not make us light so we would hide ourselves…but to shine. Jesus is our example and He says “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 ESV). God is light and His word provide us direction and guidance…it lights our way and in light there is life. His word is “…a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105 ESV).

What we see in Jesus calling himself the light of the world and David declaring that God’s word is a lamp and a light tells us that light is supposed to shine in the darkness so that people can see the way to live their lives. The light is to shine so that they can have direction because the world is full of darkness (cf. John 1:4-9.) Light shows the way. Light illuminates the path. Light provides the direction needed. Keep this idea in mind as we think about being the light of the world. We are to show the way. We are to give direction to the world. We are to illuminate the path.

So how do we take God’s light and let it shine in our lives so that others can see?

To start you thinking through your answer and what you could do differently today…or maybe more something you are already doing to purposefully shine light into the lives of others.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. (Philippians 2:14–16 ESV).

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:9–12 ESV)

Be Careful How You Walk

“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.”  Ephesians 5:15-16

My lower back has caused me problems for well over ten years.  When I was younger it would just flare up every now and then and remind me of my mortality.  I know this is cliché, but ever since I turned forty I’ve had a constant ache that won’t go away.  Somedays are better than others but every morning I’m immediately reminded of my weakness.

Saturday I worked all day in the yard clearing part of our property and cleaning out the flower beds in the front of the house.  I spent about eight or nine hours bending over swinging a machete, shoveling old mulch and pulling out plants and weeds.  I also loaded 47 bags of mulch (30 pounds each) in and out of the car and into the flower beds.  Not surprisingly, I’ve been in pretty severe pain since Sunday.  Just about any movement hurts and I almost pass out when I try to bend over and put on my socks.

Now my movements are very deliberate.  If I drop something I don’t just bend over and pick it up, I position myself properly, making sure there is something sturdy around in case I need to pull myself back up.  Then I bend at the knees, focusing on keeping my back straight the entire way down and back up.  If I’m sitting at my desk and I need something just out of arms reach, I don’t just stretch and reach.  I make sure to roll the chair closer so I can keep my back straight and avoid leaning forward.  When walking up or down stairs my focus is on each step, being sure to keep my foot in the center to avoid slipping or jarring.  Anytime I get in a hurry and fail to pay attention I have an instant reminder in the form of sharp pain in my lower back that will take my breath away.

The letter to the Ephesians focuses a great deal on our “walk”.  Chapter two verse two refers to our former walk, focused on sin according to the course of this world.  In verse ten, Paul tells us that we are His workmanship, created for good works so that we can walk in them.  In chapter four verse one, Paul implores us to walk in a manner worthy of the calling and goes on to describe the characteristics of that walk.  In verse seventeen, we are told to no longer walk like the Gentiles, darkened, ignorant, callous and focused on sensuality, greed, and impurity.  Chapter five verse two encourages us to walk in love just like Jesus and verse eight tells us to walk as children of Light.  And sort of like a summary, verse fifteen tells us to be careful how we walk, making the most of our time, understanding the will of the Lord.

God has gone to great lengths to teach us how to walk.  He has described what a life dedicated to Christ looks like and He has provided encouragement as we leave behind our life of sin and rebellion and start walking with Him.  He has also, in His great wisdom, provided painful reminders when we take a wrong step, head down the wrong path, or try to revert back to walking with the world.  The consequences of sin should provide those sharp and pointed reminders that we are not in line with the will of God.

Our job is to be careful, to be watchful, to be observant in our walk.  Who do we surround ourselves with in this life and what kind of influence do they have on us?  What do we fill our minds with and is it leading us closer to God or farther away?  What are we pursuing?  How do we spend our time?  What are our priorities?

When we get up every morning and start our day, what deliberate steps do we take to ensure we are walking with God?  Do we direct our paths or do we allow the world around us to push us along in whatever direction it happens to be heading at the moment?  Are we living life at such a rapid pace that we fail to consider the consequences of the decisions we make and the path we are taking?

Slow down.

Walk with a purpose.

The Faithful Remnant

We are studying the Kings and Prophets, and we are going into the period of the Babylonian Captivity. Dark times for Judah, no doubt. It seemed like no one cared about God or followed God. That may have been pretty close to true, but there were still a few strong followers of God. Just like we considered yesterday with Noah, even in the midst of corruption and wickedness, there was a faithful remnant.

Jeremiah preached for decades, but was anyone listening? For the most part, no, but here are a few examples of the people who were faithfully following God.

Baruch, the scribe for Jeremiah. He wrote down the words that Jeremiah received from God. He was a faithful servant and assistant to Jeremiah. Just like Jeremiah, he was taken hostage and carried off to Egypt after the Babylonian captivity.

The descendants of Jonadab faithfully followed their father’s commands even after centuries passed. Their faithfulness was contrasted to Judah’s faithlessness to their Father (Jeremiah 35).

Many people were sealed by God before the destruction of Jerusalem, because as God told Ezekiel during these days, they were “sighing and crying” over the abominations committed there (Ezekiel 9). Even in Jerusalem, the hot bed of sin and rebellion to God, there were folks faithfully following God’s word.

Ebed-melech was an Ethiopian eunuch who helped saved Jeremiah’s life (Jeremiah 38). For his faithfulness and bravery, he was blessed by God. Take note of this promise of God to Ebed-melech:

“Go, and say to Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will fulfill my words against this city for harm and not for good, and they shall be accomplished before you on that day. But I will deliver you on that day, declares the LORD, and you shall not be given into the hand of the men of whom you are afraid. For I will surely save you, and you shall not fall by the sword, but you shall have your life as a prize of war, because you have put your trust in me, declares the LORD.'” (Jeremiah 39:16-18).

Away in captivity, there were also others faithfully serving God during this time. Daniel, Ezekiel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are some examples.

The same can be said today. Scattered throughout the world, and in maybe the most unlikely of places, there are members of the faithful remnant. Most importantly, let’s make sure that you and I are part of that faithful remnant. We can, with God’s grace and help, serve God faithfully in this godless age.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,
(Titus 2:11-12)

How Can I Keep from Singing?

The point I am considering today and invite you to consider is that of contentment and joyful living and how that makes a huge difference in the lives of those we come in contact with each day.

One of the Shepherds at South Macomb Church of Christ once said to me… “God didn’t promise a smooth flight…He promised a safe landing.” The comment was made in reference to fact this world is tough, our lives will be tough, difficult circumstances will present themselves…BUT…if we cling to our God and Father through our Elder Brother and Savior Jesus Christ…we will one day make it home to be with God forever. That home has no tears, no fears, no sin, no death, no confusion and the list goes on. It is a perfect rest in the place God always intended for us to be…in His presence, in His family, forever.

Though we are not home yet…God is all around us! His glory and power are screaming at us…but we don’t always see it because of all the noise and confusion and suffering in the world. But He is there and if we look, and we consider Him and His promises…how can we not be filled with joy and peace? And if we are filled with this how can we not love and live in such a way that is different and makes those around us take notice? And how powerful is that opportunity when someone asks “How can you be so at peace or so joyful or so loving and so hopeful in a time or place like this?”? That is when the power and love of God that fills us pours out and makes a difference in the world.

Fill yourself up with Him to the point it overflows and others will notice and opportunity will arise for the Gospel. We sow the seed…the increase belongs to God. Go about your day singing and you will be different and you will have opportunity for Christ and in that God will be glorified.

I love you all and appreciate the work you do for the sake of Christ in your homes, in the Church, in the workplace and throughout your everyday experiences. May a song of Jesus fill your heart today and the spill over into the lives of others.

With All Who Had Separated Themselves

Then the children of Israel who had returned from the captivity ate together (the Passover) with all who had separated themselves from the filth of the nations of the land in order to seek the LORD God of Israel (Ezra 6:21).

Imagine how awesome and exciting it must have been for the Jewish exiles to come home to Jerusalem from captivity! Even more so, now the temple has been rebuilt, and they are keeping the Passover feast. What a joyous time of celebration. The Passover feast was a memorial feast that served as a reminder of how God delivered them from Egyptian bondage.

Please take note in the above passage, it was not just the Jews who ate the Passover. There were apparently Gentiles who became proselytes to the Jewish faith and sought the God of Israel. They “separated themselves from the filth of the nations of the land in order to seek the Lord God of Israel.” If you think about it, that is such an encouraging and powerful statement. These Gentiles left their pagan ways, they saw their ways as “filth” and wanted to get as far away from it as possible. They repented. God became first in their lives. If you go back to Moses’ law, it also required that the Gentile males had to be circumcised before keeping the Passover (Exodus 12:47-49). Now they are eating “together” with the Jews in this feast.

This is like the book of Ephesians. Jews and Gentiles both are united under one Lord. Together (Ephesians 1:10; 2:5,6,21,22; 4:16 – New King James Version).

In order to be together, both Jews and Gentiles had to separate themselves from the filth of the world. Here is a point about influence, men. The Gentiles were led to God because the Jews were living for God. The Jews had first left behind the ways of the world and the filth of the nations, and it became an example and a light for the Gentiles to follow.

We see other examples in Ezra and Nehemiah of God’s people doing the exact opposite. Instead of separating from the filth of the nations, they married into that filth and raised kids in it. Their kids became pagan instead of godly (Nehemiah 13). So here in Ezra 6 is a positive and powerful witness of what your influence can do for God. But you must first separate from the dirty-ness of the world.

Your friends and co-workers will see that change. Pray that they like these Gentiles will also want to come and seek the Lord God. May they be united and together with us at Christ’s table as we celebrate Jesus as our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7).

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16).