The verdict

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved the darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done was been done through God.

John 3:19-21 (NIV)

A verdict, according to Noah Webster, is a decision, a judgment, an opinion pronounced. Jesus proclaimed a verdict. He declared that something like no other had come into the world. Webster also said this of light:

This word furnishes a full and distinct explanation of the original sense of light, to throw, to dart, shoot or break forth. [Light is] that ethereal agent or matter which makes objects perceptible to the sense of seeing, but the particles of which are separately invisible. It is now generally believed that light is a fluid, or real matter, existing independent of other substances, with properties peculiar to itself.

I was sitting in a meeting with my pastor the other day and the power went out. For a while we were able to continue using our laptops and tablets on battery, but as evening progressed, the room got darker and darker. The atmosphere changed in the absence of light. We looked at things differently as we continued our discussion in the dark.

The detection of light is a very powerful tool for probing the universe around us. As light interacts with matter it can be become altered and by studying light that has originated or interacted with matter, many of the properties of that matter can be determined.

What is Light, www.andor.com

Isn’t it amazing how a scientific explanation reaffirms what the Bible said thousands of years ago? When light interacts with matter, we can learn stuff about that matter. When the Light interacts with people, it says something about us.

When God introduced light into the universe, it was not the sun or any other star. He introduced His own Son, and in him was life, and that light was the light of men (John 1:4). Without Jesus first being sent out, life would not exist. We cannot exist without light.

Naturally speaking, a person may not die strictly due to a lack of light, but other issues caused by perpetual darkness can lead to serious illness or death. Benefits of natural light include:

  • boosting vitamin D storage, which helps absorb calcium and can aid in the prevention of certain types of cancer;
  • higher productivity;
  • healthier vision;
  • better sleep;
  • mood improvement.

If our physical bodies were created with a need for natural light, wouldn’t it stand to reason that our spiritual bodies were also created with a need for Light? Our bodies thrive when the sun comes out. Our spirits thrive when the Son comes out.

So what’s your verdict? Do you hate the Light and do evil or do you love the Light and do good? Like a trial in the court of law, there can only be two choices when it comes to a verdict, guilty or innocent. Evil or good? Dark or Light?

Read: 1 Kings 21-22, John 3:1-21

Bandwagon

Every season, no matter what sport, the teams that make the playoffs always have an influx of fans. We call this jumping on the bandwagon. They may not watch the sport all season long, but if a certain team ends up in the postseason, suddenly, they’re superfans. The excitement draws all sorts of people out of the woodwork who act as though they’ve been fans all year long. The true test of these “fans” is the next season. Through the off-season, many of those who jumped on the postseason bandwagon will quietly slide right off, never to be seen again until the next time the team makes the playoffs. But there are a few who will continue to follow the team through their down time. When the season starts up again, those jerseys they bought at the end of the previous year get aired out, ready to be worn again through the year.

When Jesus began his ministry, he knew he would draw the bandwagoners right along with the truly faithful. Some followed because of what Jesus could do, but they never stuck around long. Others followed because of who Jesus was. Those people he discipled.

Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.

John 2:23-25 (NIV)

Jesus is no dummy. He can tell his true followers from those who are just along for the ride. Just like wearing a team jersey doesn’t necessarily make a person a true fan, showing up at church on Sunday doesn’t necessarily make you a true believer. God looks at what is inside of us, not what we show everyone on the outside. Not only does God look, but we should be inviting Him to do so.

Test me, O Lord, and try me,
examine my heart and my mind.

Psalm 26:2 (NIV)

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10 (NIV)

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.

Psalm 139:23 (NIV)

We cannot hide who or what we are from God. He sees through every façade, every fake smile, every insincere word. But even if we are a bandwagon Christian, only showing up when things get exciting, it doesn’t mean that we can’t become true worshipers. The Psalms are filled with lyrics of insufficiency and defeat, treachery and deceit. Yet, if we turn our hearts fully toward God, He will be faithful to draw us in and to help us (not make us) become true believers, worshipers, followers.

God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.

John 4:24 (NIV)

Read: 1 Kings 19-20, John 2

There is a cloud

On a cold winter night in 1933, a boy was born. It was Christmas Eve. The boy’s parents were poor. Dirt poor. To add to his trials, the boy’s parents were not married when he had been conceived. Soon, siblings followed and they all learned to work on the family farm. But that boy, born on Christmas Eve, had bigger plans for himself.

When the boy got a hold of a catalogue, he would eagerly flip to the menswear section and stare intently at the men dressed in sharp suits. The boy wasn’t destined to keep working on the farm. His imagination was bigger than that. Someday, he would get to wear a suit and tie to work every day.

The boy grew and continued to work on the farm. Circumstances led him to drop out of school before graduation. But he worked. He met a lovely young woman and, after a time of long-distance correspondence, he convinced the girl to marry him. Soon, they welcomed a baby girl into their family. The first of three. They were poor. Dirt poor. But that boy born on Christmas Eve still had bigger plans for himself and his growing family. He still wanted to wear a suit and tie to work every day.

The boy, now a man, had his sights on a certain company, but that company was not hiring. The boy, now a man, didn’t think that should stop him from working for them. So every day, he got up, got dressed and went to work. He earned nothing but the respect of those he helped on the loading docks each day. It wasn’t long before the company decided to start paying the man who wanted to work so badly, he’d do it for nothing. Surely he’d work even harder if he knew he’d be earning a paycheque.

The man born on Christmas Eve worked his way up in the company. Then another company, and then another. By the time he retired, he’d been wearing a suit and tie to work every day for decades. All those days of looking at catalogues daydreaming of the future had finally come to fruition.

In addition to becoming a very influential businessman, the man born on a cold Christmas Eve to poor parents who hadn’t been married when he was conceived, the man who never finished high school, also pastored a church. And then another church and another after that. When the man finally went home to be with Jesus, the building where his own church met was not large enough to contain all of the people whose lives he had touched.

Nothing in the way his life began indicated that a boy born on a farm to poor parents would have had the capacity to affect so many lives in both business and ministry. But that is exactly what my grandfather did. Even when it was no longer fashionable, he still wore a suit and tie to work every day and to preach at church every Sunday.

“Go and look toward the sea,” he told his servant. And he went up and looked.

“There is nothing there,” he said.

Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.”

The seventh time the servant reported, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.”

So Elijah said, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.'”

1 Kings 18:43-44 (NIV)

Like a cloud on the horizon the size of a man’s hand, where and how we start has little consequence on how we finish. That small cloud saved a nation from drought and famine. That boy born on Christmas Eve brought countless lives into the kingdom of God through the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and his legacy lives on in every life he touched and every life those lives touch. Even if you are told, there is nothing there, look again. And again. And again. Surely there is a cloud. Maybe you just can’t see it yet.

Read: i Kings 16-18, John 1:29-51

The Word

The first five verses of John’s Gospel may very well be my favourite verses in all of scripture. One could study them for a whole year and still not grasp the full weight and complexity of their meaning. Previously, I’ve been focused on the Light, but today, the Word jumped out at me.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:1 (NIV)

Revelation 19:13 speaks of Jesus and his name is the Word of God. So, one could read the first verse of John like this:

In the beginning was Jesus, and Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God.

If Jesus is the Word of God, what does the Bible have to say about the Word?

…so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:11 (NIV)

In this context, Jesus had to give himself up as a sacrifice for our sins because that is what he was sent to do. And if God’s Word, Jesus, will accomplish what God desires, Jesus had to achieve the purpose for which he was sent.

For me, this is another one of those big revelations that needs time to roll around and fully form. Read these verses again for yourself and see what God is speaking to you through His Word.

Read: 1 Kings 14-15, John 1:1-28

True life

We’re all looking for something or someone. Everyone wants to find purpose or meaning in life. And most people go through their entire lives searching but never finding because they’ve been looking in all the wrong places.

The Sunday after Jesus died by way of crucifixion, the women who had been following him went to the tomb to anoint his body properly for burial. One would assume that the best place to look for someone who had died would be the tomb where their body had been placed, but when they arrived, there was no body to anoint. Just a couple of angels with a message.

“Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

Luke 24:5b (NIV)

In the entire account of the empty tomb, this one question stood out to me. In all of our searching for meaning and purpose in life, most often, we look for it among the dead. In John 14:6, Jesus declared, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” If there is life to be found, there is only one place to find it, and it’s not in the world.

The world, as hard as it may try, cannot replace or replicate the life that is found in Christ. Anything that is found outside of Christ can only mimic true life.

Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they make take hold of the life that is truly life.

1 Timothy 6:18-19 (NIV)

Meaning and purpose cannot be found just anywhere. Paul wrote to Timothy to tell the people to do good, be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. That is where true life begins. It is not a selfish search for ourselves, but a selfless search for Christ.

And if there is any doubt at all:

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life.”

John 6:35a (NIV)

The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.

John 6:63 (NIV)

When Jesus spoke again to the people, 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 (NIV)

You may be breathing. Your heart may be beating. But are you alive? Are you truly alive?

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

John 11:25-26 (NIV)

Life is too short to waste looking for it among the dead. Life, true life, can only be found at the foot of the cross of Jesus.

Read: 1 Kings 10-11, Luke 24:1-35

Three strikes

Three strikes and you’re out! Much to my mother’s dismay, I love baseball. I watch a lot of baseball. Because I love to watch baseball, my mother has learned to endure baseball. In my father’s absence, we had a very nearly intelligent conversation about it just the other day. She even knew what a DH was. While Mom doesn’t know nearly as many of the ins and outs of baseball as I do, she does know that three strikes means that the batter is out. Three outs and the inning is over.

One could argue that baseball is in the Bible. You know, in the big inning God created the heavens and the earth… (groan). There was one occasion, though where someone did reach the three strike count. But that didn’t mean he was out.

Jesus, while reclining at the table after sharing the Passover supper with his disciples, announced to Peter that before the rooster crowed, he would deny knowing Jesus three times. Peter was opposed to this idea. He was willing to go to prison or even to death for and with his Lord. Words are all fine and good, but that’s not how things ended up for Peter.

Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.

Luke 22:60-62 (NIV)

If life were a game of ball, Peter probably would have been out a long time before this, even if he weren’t, the third denial would have been the third strike. The umpire of life would holler from behind home plate, “You’re outta here!” But he wasn’t out. Peter had not been disqualified. In fact, Jesus made preparations for such a situation. He changed the rules.

But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.

Luke 22:32 (NIV)

Keep in mind that this is the same Peter who had cut the ear off one of the guards who had come to arrest Jesus. This is the same Peter who had the courage to step out of the boat, but began to sink into the waves. The same Peter who suggested they build shelters on the mountain of transfiguration for Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. But this is also the same Peter who had the revelation of Jesus being the Son of God.

After his third strike, no one would have blamed Peter for walking away. Perhaps the other disciples would have even suggested it. But just as he remembered Jesus’ prediction of his denial, Peter would have remembered Jesus’ prayer for him as well. In that moment of decision, Peter could have turned his back on Jesus or, as was prayed, used that experience to strengthen himself. He chose the latter.

After Jesus had ascended into heaven, the believers sat waiting in the upper room for something. They weren’t sure what, but they were certain they’d know it when it came. Then came the wind and tongues of fire.

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Acts 2:4 (NIV)

So when the crowds heard all this noise and recognised their own native languages who went out to speak. John, the one whom Jesus loved? James? Levi, the tax collector? No, Peter, the one who had denied Jesus. And as he spoke to the crowd, maybe Jesus’ words echoed in his mind, “And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” That day, three thousand more souls were added to their numbers. What should have been Peter’s downfall became his starting point. He had tasted the bitterness of his own defeat, yet seen in Jesus the sweetness of victory.

Thank God that there is no umpire for life. There is no one behind us to tell us we’re out. The only way we are disqualified from the life we’ve been called to is if we step out of the batter’s box. God will never pull one of His children from the game. He is our Father, cheering us on from the sidelines. He is our coach, giving instructions from the dugout. He is the pitcher, throwing a perfect strike every time. There is no such thing as an out. We get to swing until we hit something. There is nothing we can do that will withdraw God’s call from our lives.

If Peter could stand in front of Jesus and deny ever knowing him, yet just days later, stand in front of thousands declaring him as Lord, we can go on knowing that God has our backs. And our fronts. And our sides. He has called us up to the plate, but a bat in our hands and He will never take it away.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)

Read: 1 Kings 1-2, Luke 22:54-71

Cheap and easy

Have you ever known another Christian who thinks you should do things for or give things to them just because you’re both Christians? Somewhere along the line, a lot of believers got it in their heads that everything should be cheap and easy. Free is even better. We’ve got this idea in our heads that it’s a blessing. Generally, it’s not. It’s cheap. It’s greedy. It’s unbecoming of a group of people who should be known for their generosity, not their ability to rip people off in the name of faith.

David, having grieved the Lord, was instructed to build an altar and offer a sacrifice at a certain place. That certain place was a threshing floor belonging to a man named Araunan. Araunan offered everything to David for free.

But the king replied to Araunan, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

2 Samuel 24:24 (NIV)

David paid for the threshing floor, the wood for the fire, and the oxen to sacrifice. As the king, it probably didn’t break the bank. But he still refused to offer something to God that he didn’t have to pay for.

Centuries later, another sacrifice was required. Like David’s sin needed a sacrifice, our sin, too, needed a sacrifice. Only the payment for our sin was much greater than the purchase of a floor, wood, and ox. The payment required on our behalf was the life of God’s Son.

As Jesus prepared for what he knew he had to do, he let out one last agonising prayer.

Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

Luk 22:42 (NIV)

I cannot imagine the torment Jesus went through during that time in the garden. He knew the physical pain would be unbearable. He knew the weight of the sins of the world would be crushing. And he knew that he would forever be separated from his Father.

These are just two examples, in a book of many, that we are to emulate. Jesus taught on and lived a life of generosity. That practice continued in the early church as Paul writes to commend the church at Philippi.

Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only.

Philippians 4:15 (NIV)

Only one church of many understood the concept of generous giving. The point was not that Paul needed so much (even though he did), but that the church received far more because of their gifts.

Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.

Philippians 4:17-18 (NIV)

David could have very easily accepted the gift Araunan offered to him, but he knew that he needed to pay a price or the sacrifice would not have been his, but Araunan’s. Jesus, too, could have prayed that the cup be passed and stopped there. God may have even allowed it. But Jesus knew a price had to be paid. Paul could have sent the gifts back to Philippi since he had more than enough, but he knew that the church needed to give so that they could receive more.

You see, generosity is not something we should expect from others, but it is something we should expect of ourselves. How much value do you place in something that came cheap and easy? Compare that to something that you paid dearly for.

Someone may or may not have need of what you have to give, but you have far greater need for the space your sacrifice creates in your own life. If you want a blessing, you have to make room for it. If a gift costs you nothing to give, is it really worth giving? What does that say about you? What does that say to the person receiving the gift?

No matter who you give to or what you give, whether it be to the Lord, a brother or sister in Christ, or the homeless person on the street, give generously. Give faithfully. Give as though it’s the first gift you get to give and the last you’ll ever be able to give.

Read: 2 Samuel 23-24, Luke 22:31-53